Being Mortal

Being Mortal

Hardcover | October 7, 2014

byAtul Gawande

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From surgeon and bestselling author Atul Gawande, a book that has the potential to change medicine—and lives. 

Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming the dangers of childbirth, injury, and disease from harrowing to manageable. But when it comes to the inescapable realities of aging and death, what medicine can do often runs counter to what it should.
Through eye-opening research and gripping stories of his own patients and family, Gawande reveals the suffering this dynamic has produced. Nursing homes, devoted above all to safety, battle with residents over the food they are allowed to eat and the choices they are allowed to make. Doctors, uncomfortable discussing patients’ anxieties about death, fall back on false hopes and treatments that are actually shortening lives instead of improving them. And families go along with all of it.
In his bestselling books, Atul Gawande, a practicing surgeon, has fearlessly revealed the struggles of his profession. Now he examines its ultimate limitations and failures—in his own practices as well as others’—as life draws to a close. And he discovers how we can do better. He follows a hospice nurse on her rounds, a geriatrician in his clinic, and reformers turning nursing homes upside down. He finds people who show us 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.

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Being Mortal

Hardcover | October 7, 2014
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$17.67 online $32.95 (save 46%)

From the Publisher

From surgeon and bestselling author Atul Gawande, a book that has the potential to change medicine—and lives. Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming the dangers of childbirth, injury, and disease from harrowing to manageable. But when it comes to the inescapable realities of aging and death, what medicine can do often run...

Atul Gawande is the author of three bestselling books: Complications, a finalist for the National Book Award; Better, selected by as one of the ten best books of 2007; and The Checklist Manifesto. He is also a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, a staff writer for The New Yorker, and a professor at Harvard Med...

other books by Atul Gawande

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right
The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

Paperback|Jan 4 2011

$13.50 online$18.50list price(save 27%)
Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance
Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance

Paperback|Jan 22 2008


Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science
Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Scienc...

Paperback|Apr 1 2003

$16.20 online$18.00list price(save 10%)
see all books by Atul Gawande
Format:HardcoverDimensions:304 pages, 8.5 × 5.77 × 1.1 inPublished:October 7, 2014Publisher:Doubleday CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0385677006

ISBN - 13:9780385677004

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Rated 5 out of 5 by from An excellent read A thought-provoking, informative, even fascinating look at dying, and how modern society deals with it, especially the medical system and the nursing home establishment. At times philosophical but always easy to read, this book is highly recommended to anyone who will ever age, or become seriously ill.
Date published: 2016-05-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Insightful Such a positive way to experience the end of our life's journey in peace and with some control - many paliative stories told with such compassion.
Date published: 2015-10-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Book profoundly changed the direction of my career Being interested in all things medical, as well as loving a good debate about moral issues I picked this book up not prepared for it to change me so profoundly. I am a massage therapy student and had every intent of doing relaxation massages from a home office and offering aromatherapy treatment eventually. After reading this book, I was left hanging onto every word and found my eyes open to a whole world I knew existed somewhere only in the background, this is the world of end of life care. Upon the completion of my reading I headed to class and told them I now want to specialize in end of life massage care whether it be for the elderly or the terminally ill. I realize there will be a lot of logistics and details to it but I'll find a way and have had a very supportive reaction from instructors and classmates alike. I know my job will take on a more emotional turn than most massage therapists but I feel that if my work, inspired by Atul Gawande can help ease even one person with the most delicate passage of life, I will have done my job. This book literally changed my life and made me realize that the end of one's life is a delicate time and one that we should pay more attention to how we want the end to look like for us. Do we want our final days to be bed ridden with machines ? What is moral in medicine? Where is the line? Ultimately, every one;s line is a little bit different and everyone's line should be respected. Anyone in health care, anyone thinking about a career in health care or anyone who has anyone in thier lives facing what could be the end, should read and re read this book.
Date published: 2015-09-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Do Not Overlook This Message! After reading this very interesting book, I am absolutely convinced that everyone ought to take it's message seriously. In fact, it should be on the "must read" list for every person over the age of 65 years of age. It quietly, or not so quietly, emphasizes the inevatible march of time that creeps up on every one of us. The ability of the writer to gently covey his observations, conclusions and first-hand experiences, is wonderfully, ..... alarming but also awakening.
Date published: 2015-04-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Must-Read My sister had encouraged me to read this book as she had worked in the healthcare system and with seniors. It impressed me so much that I purchased six more copies to give out to friends with aging parents, as well as to my family doctor. This is a book to open one's eyes to the reality of aging and dying; it simply and graciously shows us different ways of facing the inevitability of the death of our loved ones in order to give them (and us) courage and dignity in their final days.
Date published: 2015-04-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Being Mortal Atul Guwande  wonderful book. Insightful and thought pr0voking. It speaks about the fragility of life. A must read.
Date published: 2015-04-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another great book by Dr Gawande Death is a difficult subject, and one most of us fear because it's one of life's true unknowns. Dr Gawande's book provides insight into what end of life care can mean, what options are available and how valuable hospice care can be. An important book for everyone, but especially for those of us who have aging parents.
Date published: 2015-04-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb read! A difficult subject but one that we must talk about. Gawande is a masterful writer and not afraid to tell it like it is.
Date published: 2015-02-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Powerful I finished reading this book 2 days before having to navigate a family member's death within our healthcare system. This book provided me the context and the questions to ask. It made the difference between knowing whether we stay the night to support our loved one in to their final hours. The healthcare professionals danced around the issue of dying and never once approached us with the truth of what was really happening. Thank you. Everyone should read this.
Date published: 2015-01-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Enightened Approach to Health, Illness Gawande has carefully constructed his argument that Western Medicine has confused our understanding of mortality focussing as it does so heavily on treatment or intervention to "master" disease. What he asks of his readers is to consider how much this confusion has led to a neglect in societal as well individual understanding about dying
Date published: 2014-11-17

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Editorial Reviews

National BestsellerA New York Times Bestseller A Globe and Mail Best Book of 2014Named one of The Guardian (UK)’s Five Best Psychology Books of 2014Named one of The Telegraph (UK)’s Five Best Books of 2014Named one of Amazon’s 100 Best Books of 2014 Named one of New York Times Book Review's 100 Notable Books of 2014 Named one of Maclean's Best Books of 2014  “If you are familiar with Gawande’s articles in The New Yorker, you are aware of this physician-writer’s eloquence and compassion. In his fourth book, he takes on the medicalizing of death, examining the unnecessary torture that life-extending interventions often impose. But this book offers more than just prescriptions: his intimate knowledge of our bodies and the fascinating stories he’s picked up over his career makes this book required reading for anyone involved in end-of-life issues. And that inevitably includes each and every one of us.” —Toronto Star"One of a handful of truly exceptional physician-authors writing today. . . . Being Mortal is an important call-to-action for rethinking and improving virtually every aspect of end-of-life care. . . . If Gawande's book inspires even a handful of technology innovators to devote their skills and efforts to this area, then the world will be a better place." —Forbes"In Being Mortal, Gawande has given us an empathetic, wise, and learned work on a necessary topic. This book deserves its wide readership, and that wide readership deserves this book." —Los Angeles Review of Books“Wise and moving. . . . This timely and important book sets limits on the usefulness of scientific medicine when it comes to dying. Instead, Gawande turns to Tolstoy, Montaigne, Plato, family and medical experience to probe ways of meeting the end with dignity and courage.” —The Guardian (UK)  “Atul Gawande . . . is both philosophical and practical. . . . His book about our wrong-headed relationship to death is a must for readers of any age.” —The Telegraph (UK) “No book has all the answers, but Being Mortal should help to start some conversations.” —Times Higher Education (UK)“How do we create safe and meaningful final years? Ultimately, how do we want to die? . . . Atul Gawande addresses these questions with thoughtful originality. . . . Smart and compassionate, Being Mortal is a masterwork that will inspire new, and markedly better, views of the end of life.” —The Artery (Boston)   “While directed primarily toward medical professionals, Being Mortal is written with a vocabulary and style that makes it accessible to the average reader. His case studies bring the theoretical down to earth. It is an excellent book for a discussion group. . . . Gawande is eminently qualified to write on this subject.” —The Missourian (Washington)  “You should certainly read . . . Being Mortal. It is, like all [Gawande’s] books, written in a highly accessible style, laced with humane and luminous anecdotes. It addresses . . . an important and fascinating subject. . . . of pressing importance and relevance to everyone: ageing, illness, mortality and medicine.” —The Australian“An important new book. . . . Gawande’s thoughtful prescriptions for better, smarter care of the elderly must not go unnoticed.” —The Record (Kitchener-Waterloo) “Here is a man who is not only a surgeon-storyteller, but a philosopher speaking with a poignant, profound and contemporary voice about issues which concerns [sic] us all, no matter where we live or who we are. . . . In his trademark style, Gawande mixes solid research with taut storytelling. We are invited to sit at the bedsides of his former patients, his family and his friends and experience their final days. There are passages which bring a lump to your throat. . . . But as you turn the final page, you are not left with a feeling of despair. . . . This is a book which emits courage and hope.” —Deccan Chronicle (India)   “An intimate exploration of ageing, dying, and the importance of identifying what matters most in our lives, especially at the very end. . . . It is written in a conversational style that is meant to educate rather than intimidate, and the insightful observations he makes will have you reaching for a highlighter, in the knowledge that you will be returning to this book for guidance in the future.” —The Hindu (India)   “This book is strongly recommended reading for everyone because we all have to deal with issues of ageing and death, personally or in the family, now or in the future. Even as it speaks of mortality, it tells us how to make the best of life.” —The Indian Express (India)   “Not only an extraordinary account of loss but one whose ideas are truly important.” —The Himalayan Times (Nepal)“A thoughtful, humane, unsparing examination of the ageing process, our treatment of the elderly, and our attitude towards death and end-of-life care. . . . Beautifully written.” —The Herald (Scotland) “Characteristic of Gawande’s clear prose and recurring throughout . . .  is a cast of memorable characters, empathetically rendered, anecdote lending life to his analysis. . . . Gawande’s work is important. He offers no perfect solutions. There are no easy answers on how we safeguard the autonomy of the elderly, particularly in face of bad decisions, denial, or dementia. Instead, he is gently reminding us to try and do a little better for the elderly, to think a little harder, to give a little more, to be a little more creative, a little more sensitive. He makes a strong case that this will pay off for our loved ones. And, in time, for us.” —Newsweek“So important. . . .Widespread and lasting change in our attitudes to being mortal is possible. Maybe Gawande . . . can trigger it.” —The Globe and Mail  “Wonderful, disturbing, but ultimately hopeful.” —Huffington Post“[Gawande’s] book, written with his customary warmth and panache, is a plea to the medical profession and the rest of us to shift away from simply fighting for longer life towards fighting for the things that make life meaningful. . . . Gawande’s clinical reports, thick with the particularities of people’s passions, the singularity of their existence, suggest that what matters is the individual.” —The Guardian (UK) “Gawande presents a detailed, but highly readable history of how the meaning of death has changed over the past fifty or sixty years. He presents this history in the careful voice of a medical professional, but textured with the stories of older people he's met through his family and his practice. . . . These stories within the story help Gawande drive home the crucial point at the center of his book: that throughout the developed world, our approach to death has completely changed in just a few generations. And with that change come a host of new questions.” —Huffington Post “Being Mortal is a valuable contribution to the growing literature on aging, death and dying. It contains unsparing descriptions of bodily aging and the way it often takes us by surprise. Gawande is a gifted storyteller. . . . The stories give a dignified voice to older people in the process of losing their independence. We see the world from their perspective, not just those of their physicians and worried family members.” —The New York Times Book Review“An impassioned, broad-ranging and deeply personal exploration. . . . Gawande remains clear-sighted through the muddle of anxieties, conflicting emotions and vested interests. . . . The message resounding through Being Mortal is that our lives have narrative—we all want to be the authors of our own stories, and in stories endings matter.” —The Guardian (UK) “Gawande’s wise and courageous book raises the questions that none of us wants to think about. . . . His book is a scathing indictment of the way modern medicine treats the old and the dying.”—The Sunday Times (UK) “Fascinating. . . . Dr Gawande writes very well, his book is deeply humane and I learned much from it.” —The Times (UK) “This humane and beautifully written book is a manifesto that could radically improve the lives of the aged and terminally ill.” —The Independent (UK) “[Gawande’s] latest book, Being Mortal, is his most ambitious to date. . . . Prose is crisp and clean . . . . More lyrical than his earlier work.” —The Guardian (UK) “Being Mortal . . .  Atul Gawande’s masterful exploration of aging, death, and the medical profession’s mishandling of both, is his best and most personal book yet. . . . Inspiring.” —The Boston Globe  “Touching. . . . Dr. Gawande’s book is not of the kind that some doctors write, reminding us how grim the fact of death can be. Rather, Dr. Gawande shows how patients in the terminal phase of their illness can maintain important qualities of life. . . . Being Mortal doesn’t gloss over what awaits us all, but it fixes our attention on the ways in which a patient’s wishes might be fulfilled.” —The Wall Street Journal “Rarely do doctors write so eloquently. . . . These are arguments that can’t be made too often, and they are not often made this well. . . . A wise and potent conversion tale.” —The New York Times  “Being Mortal uses a clear, illuminating style to describe the medical facts and cases that have brought him to that understanding. . . . Honest, serious and empathetic.” —The New York Times Book Review “A determined, heartbreaking effort. . . . This book is an acknowledgment that serenity and well-being actually cannot be dished up cafeteria-style—and that sometimes the only sure way to gain control is first to relinquish it, whether to a bad disease, a dying patient or the constraints of a finite life span.” —The New York Times  “Gawande has combined his years of experience as a surgeon with his gift for fluid, seemingly effortless storytelling to remind readers that despite stunning technical advances, doctors are human—and as fallible as any of us. . . . [His] writing is clear and concise and yet gentle and humane. And most important, honest. He finds a way to talk about death and dying safely. His work suggests ways that might repair our culture's warped view of death. . . . Being Mortal is not an easy read. But it is essential.” —Chicago Tribune “Distressed by how ‘the waning days of our lives are given over to treatments that addle our brains and sap our bodies for a sliver’s chance of benefit,’ surgeon Gawande confronts the contemporary experience of aging and dying. As a writer and a doctor, Gawande appreciates the value of a good ending.”—Booklist, starred review “A book I cannot recommend highly enough. . . . A clear-eyed, informative exploration of what growing old means in the 21st century; it provides a useful roadmap of what we can and should be doing to make the last years of life meaningful for everyone experiencing the aging process up close. . . . A book about aging and dying is, ultimately, a book about how to live.” —TIME“Eloquent, moving. . . . Many passages in Being Mortal will bring a lump to the throat, but Dr. Gawande also visits places offering a better way to manage life’s end. . . . In life, as in all stories, he writes, ‘endings matter.’” —The Economist “A clear eyed look at aging and death in 21st-century America. . . .  Gawande offers a timely account of how modern Americans cope with decline and mortality. . . . A sensitive, intelligent and heartfelt examination of the processes of aging and dying.” —Kirkus Reviews “Gawande . . . has fearlessly revealed the struggles of his profession. Now he examines its ultimate limitations and failures—in his own practices as well as others’—as life draws to a close.” —The Guardian (UK)“A deeply affecting, urgently important book—one not just about dying and the limits of medicine but about living to the last with autonomy, dignity, and joy.” —KATHERINE BOO  “We have come to medicalize aging, frailty, and death, treating them as if they were just one more clinical problem to overcome. However, it is not only medicine that is needed in one’s declining years but life—a life with meaning, a life as rich and full as possible under the circumstances. Being Mortal is not only wise and deeply moving, it is an essential and insightful book for our times, as one would expect from Atul Gawande, one of our finest physician writers.” —OLIVER SACKS  “North American medicine, Being Mortal reminds us, has prepared itself for life but not for death. This is Atul Gawande’s most powerful—and moving—book.” —MALCOLM GLADWELL