Bioethics Blogs

Atul Gawande’s Look at Mortality, Part 2

I was invited to write a review of the book, Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande recently. While not a Christian book, it addresses end of life issues of interest to all involved with bioethics. This is the second half of the review, the first of which can be found here.

Nearly half of Gawande’s book reflects on final things, on letting go of life in the face of the limits of mortality. In this way, it supplements the excellent book by another physician, Ira Byock, called Dying Well: Peace and Possibilities at the End of Life. Through stories of real people, including his patients and even his own dying father, Gawande offers a harsh critique of the role modern physicians play as the chance for cure slips away with terminal diseases. That so many people die in a hospital setting, undergoing treatments inconsistent with their deepest convictions and in conflict with their ultimate goals, he finds disturbing. True, he is not at all unique in this assessment. He is also not unique in the celebration of the value of palliative and hospice care in decreasing the numbers of patients who face the end of their lives in hospitals, and who actually find the length and quality of their lives substantially improved over those who do not receive such care. Where Gawande is especially effective is in the way he can tell a story…one that links the crux of the patient’s own narrative with the medical realities (and innate struggle of the physician and the caregiving team) in the cases he uses for illustration.

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.