Rebecca's Reviews > Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
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it was amazing
bookshelves: illness-and-death, old-age-or-ageing
Recommended for: Anyone to whom the title condition applies

An essential guide to decision-making about end-of-life care, but also a more philosophical treatment of the question of what makes life worth living. When should we extend life, and when should we concentrate more on the quality of our remaining days than their quantity? Most of the book weighs the plight of the elderly (it’s not just grim nursing homes out there), but there are also plenty of illustrative cases about the terminally ill. The “Letting Go” chapter is among the best; it grew out of this New Yorker article, which proved extremely helpful for my sister when she was arranging hospice care for her late husband.

Along with The Emperor of All Maladies, this is a book everyone should read. Surgeon Atul Gawande, like Siddhartha Mukherjee, brings a physician’s technical knowledge to his writing, but also a very personal touch: his father, grandfather, and grandmother-in-law are among his subjects. This book is truly a gift. I plan to pass it to my mother; she’s only 67, but it’s never too early to start on that ‘hard conversation’ about one’s wishes for the end of life.

Favorite passage: “The simple view is that medicine exists to fight death and disease, and that is, of course, its most basic task. Death is the enemy. But the enemy has superior forces. Eventually, it wins. And in a war that you cannot win, you don’t want a general who fights to the point of total annihilation. You don’t want Custer. You want Robert E. Lee, someone who knows how to fight for territory that can be won and how to surrender it when it can’t, someone who understands that the damage is greatest if all you do is battle to the bitter end.”
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Reading Progress

September 30, 2014 – Shelved
September 30, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
January 17, 2015 – Started Reading
January 22, 2015 –
page 65
23.05%
January 23, 2015 –
page 122
43.26%
February 2, 2015 – Shelved as: illness-and-death
February 8, 2015 – Finished Reading
April 12, 2016 – Shelved as: old-age-or-ageing

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