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23 Jun 2023

Book Review: Being Mortal

Book Review: Being Mortal
Caring Times senior conference producer Teresa Zargouni reviews the American surgeon and writer Atul Gawande’s book on society’s approach to ageing and mortality.

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

Being Mortal is a powerful and insightful book by surgeon and writer Atul Gawande, which challenges us to rethink our approach to aging and dying - what makes life worth living when we are old and frail and unable to care for ourselves?  
The book is a thoughtful reflection on the ways in which our current healthcare system fails to meet the needs of people as they age and approach the end of life. 
Gawande presents a series of touching stories and real case studies that highlight the importance of autonomy, choice, and dignity in end-of-life care. He argues that instead of focusing on prolonging life at all costs, we should prioritise quality of life and individual preferences when it comes to medical decisions. 
Learning about the pioneers / reinventors of the healthcare system that helped people achieve what was most important to them at the end of their lives was very inspiring. Their imagination, courage, and perseverance has initiated the transformation from a medically dominated culture of care to a more compassionate and patient-centred approach which focuses on the quality of life rather than the quantity of life. 
Another valuable learning from the book is the need for greater communication and planning around end-of-life care. Gawande encourages us to have frank discussions with our loved ones and healthcare providers about their values and priorities, and to make decisions about their care in advance. That made me think about my parents and the moment when I will have to have a difficult conversation with them. I think no-one is ever prepared to make such a difficult decision to let our loved ones go. Gawande makes us aware of the different choices we all have around the end of our lives, and helps us to see through the lens of elderly people.
Being Mortal is a powerful and thought-provoking book that offers important insights for anyone interested in improving end-of-life care. It challenges us to rethink our approach to aging and dying, to better understand the elderly mind, and to prioritise the well-being and dignity of patients and families. 


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