From My Bookshelf: Atul Gawande

By Lynn Willoughby

Being Mortal ~ Atul Gawande

“From Atul Gawande, a book that has the potential to change medicine – and lives.”
Gawande is a practicing surgeon.  In this book of non-fiction he examines the limitations, the failures and the suffering that often precede death.  And he discussed how we can do better.
Gawande’s father is suffering from cancer.  He is not a young man, but he is still full of vitality, still doing surgery and playing tennis.  But both the patient and the family know what is coming.  Gawande launches into research on what the options will be.  He shadows a hospice nurse on her rounds, a geriatrician in his clinic and reformers who are turning nursing homes upside down.  He finds out how to have the hard conversations and how to ensure we never sacrifice what people really care about.  “Riveting, honest and humane.  Being Mortal shows that the ultimate goal is not a good death but a good life – all the way to the very end.”
“Life may be a journey, but all our roads, however long or short, whether express, local or HOV, whether traversed by foot, burro, bus, SUV, monster truck or Star Trek Transporter, converge on the same destination, and the quality of those last few mile is something we should be concerned about.”   ~ Will Byrnes
This book, while a distillation of a lot of research on the part of the author, is very readable.  In fact, Gawande asks, “What does it mean to be good at taking care of people whose problems we cannot fix?”
There are lots of question, lots of answers and alternatives, lots of information to discuss.  One person in the book said that a long as he could watch football on TV and eat chocolate ice cream, life would be worth living.  What is your line in the sand?
  • The Checklist
  • Complications
……….and others

Who Knew?

Nursing homes in the 1800s were first established to ensure that worthy individuals of their own ethnic or religious background might NOT end their days alongside the most despised of society.  However, these asylums often housed horrors for the elderly, similar to the almshouse.