I just finished reading Atul Gawande’s book Being Mortal and would recommend it to anyone interested in the issues surrounding death and dying. In the book Gawande comes across as both a caring physician and an engaging author. He weaves together the things he has learned about how we die and stories of the lives of a number of people as the live out the last years or days of their lives. The people he writes about include his own family, his patients, and people he came across in his research. The medium of telling their stories is also part of the message. One of the things he is trying to say is that each of our lives is a story and that as a story it is meaningful to us when it has purpose and direction; when the story is about more than just fulfilling our own desires.
Along the way he shares what he has found about how the frail elderly can still live lives that have meaning to them, and how we can use a better understanding of what makes life meaningful to help direct how we provide medical care. There are practical tips like the use of the phrase “I am worried” as a way of expressing concern about a terminal patient’s condition, and a set of questions to use to help learn what a dying person’s real goals are so that care can conform to those goals. He provides excellent documentation of the benefits of palliative and hospice care.
One of the primary insights in the book is that life is meaningful when we have something to life for that is more than ourselves.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.