Being Mortal talks about the difficulties that medical advancements and the current medical system have caused. Although the lifespan and life quality for many people far exceed what they were in the past, this has caused some unexpected problems for the people in the last 5-10 years of their life. The current medical system in the US and in many developed countries around the world prioritizes the length of life, but not necessarily the quality of life.
The main question that Gawande proposes in his book is: is it better to have the longest life possible (regardless of quality), or is it more important to have the highest-quality life in the time you are around? Gawande’s answer leans towards having the highest-quality life possible, and he believes the medical system needs to change in order to accommodate this. Right now, many doctors often recommend shooting for the highest risk-highest reward option (even if this option is expensive, rarely succeeds, and is excruciatingly painful for the patient), rather than accepting the facts and choosing the option that will make the patient happiest while he/she is alive.
It is understandable why doctors and patients never want to give up and accept death as the inevitable outcome: everyone hears about the miracle patient that magically healed and went on to live a healthy life for the next 20 years, but no one hears about the 100s of patients who still die after having gone through pain and hardship at the end of their life. As Gawande suggests, patients should look at what they value most in life, and make a medical decision based off of their priorities. Gawande discusses his points much more eloquently, so I suggest you read the book to hear his thoughts on the matter.
Gawande makes some exceptional points throughout the book, and I think it can really change your perspective on the medical system and how end of life care should be dealt with. Using personal anecdotes from his family and his time as a doctor, Gawande’s arguments follow a logical, easy to understand path.
Being Mortal Recommendation Rating: 3.5
1: Something worth checking out if you have time
2: Something that is a hit for some people, but not a must for everyone
3: Something worth prioritizing if interested
4: Something worth making time to check out
5: An absolute home run, worth going out of your way for