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  • Writer's pictureShrikant Soman

Book Review - Being Mortal by Atul Gawande



Being Mortal is a book by Atul Gawande, a surgeon and writer, that explores the modern experience of aging and dying. In the book, Gawande examines the limitations of medicine and the healthcare system in addressing the needs of people who are approaching the end of their lives. He also discusses how individuals and society as a whole can better support the elderly and those who are facing serious illness.



Gawande draws on personal anecdotes and interviews with patients, families, and healthcare professionals to highlight the challenges and opportunities of aging and dying in the 21st century. He advocates for a more patient-centered approach to healthcare, one that prioritizes quality of life and individual autonomy over simply prolonging life at all costs.

Overall, Being Mortal offers a thoughtful and compassionate reflection on the end-of-life experience, encouraging readers to consider their own priorities and values as they navigate their own aging and mortality.



Book Contents

Being Mortal is divided into 8 chapters, which are:

  1. The Independent Self - In this chapter, Gawande introduces the concept of the "independent self" and how it has influenced our approach to aging and dying.

  2. Things Fall Apart - Gawande examines the physical and mental decline that often accompanies aging, and how it can affect a person's ability to maintain their independence.

  3. Dependence - This chapter explores the difficult transition from independence to dependence, and how it can challenge both the individual and their family members.

  4. Assistance - Gawande discusses the various forms of assistance available to people who are aging or facing serious illness, and how they can impact a person's quality of life.

  5. A Better Life - This chapter examines the importance of quality of life in healthcare, and how it can be prioritized even when curative options are limited.

  6. Letting Go - Gawande discusses the challenges of end-of-life care, and how both patients and their families can struggle with letting go.

  7. Hard Conversations - This chapter explores the importance of having difficult conversations about end-of-life care, and offers advice for how to approach these conversations with loved ones.

  8. Courage - The final chapter offers reflections on the meaning of courage in the face of aging and mortality, and encourages readers to embrace a more compassionate and patient-centered approach to healthcare.



Being Mortal Notable Quotes

"Medicine has produced marvels that can save lives in an instant, but it has also created a sense of expectations that can be difficult to reconcile with the fact that we all age and die."

"The ultimate goal of medicine, that is, to enable people to live longer, better lives, is not without its own complications."

"We all die. We should be talking about it."

"Endings matter, not just for the person but for the family, who carry the memory of that ending with them for the rest of their lives."

"The battle of being mortal is the battle to maintain the integrity of one's life—to avoid becoming so diminished or dissipated or subjugated that who you are becomes disconnected from who you were or who you want to be."

"Old age is not a battle. It's a massacre."

"The lesson of mortality is that it makes us realize what we value most."



Awards and Recognitions


"Being Mortal" by Atul Gawande is a highly acclaimed book that explores the challenges faced by both patients and doctors when it comes to end-of-life care. The book has received numerous awards and honors, including:

  1. New York Times Best Seller: "Being Mortal" was a New York Times Best Seller and remained on the list for more than a year.

  2. The Wellcome Book Prize: In 2015, "Being Mortal" won the Wellcome Book Prize, which is awarded to books that engage with medicine and its impact on society.

  3. The Books for a Better Life Award: This award honors books that inspire readers to improve their lives, and "Being Mortal" won in the Personal Growth and Self-Help category in 2015.

  4. The National Book Critics Circle Award: "Being Mortal" was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2014.

  5. The Goodreads Choice Awards: In 2014, "Being Mortal" won the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Nonfiction.

  6. The American Library Association Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction: "Being Mortal" won this prestigious award in 2015.



Overall, "Being Mortal" has been widely praised for its honest and compassionate exploration of end-of-life care, and the book's success and recognition reflect the importance and relevance of its message.


Popular Reviews

"Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End" is a thought-provoking book written by Atul Gawande, a practicing surgeon, and writer. In this book, Gawande explores the medicalization of aging and dying in modern society, and how it has changed the way we approach the end of life.



The book has received widespread critical acclaim, with many reviewers praising its insightful and compassionate approach to a difficult and often taboo topic.

Here are a few examples of book reviews:

  1. The New York Times Book Review: "Being Mortal is an important contribution to the growing literature on aging, death, and dying...Gawande's writing is clear and concise, and his arguments are persuasive and backed up by research."

  2. The Wall Street Journal: "Being Mortal is a beautiful, compassionate, and ultimately hopeful book...Gawande reminds us that our most important task as human beings is to care for one another, especially at the end of life."

  3. NPR: "Being Mortal is a book that everyone should read...It's a powerful reminder that, as Gawande puts it, 'our ultimate goal, after all, is not a good death but a good life to the very end.'"

  4. The Guardian: "Being Mortal is a profound and moving book that challenges us to rethink our approach to aging and dying...Gawande's writing is both lyrical and practical, and he draws on his own experiences as a doctor to bring the issues to life."

  5. The Boston Globe: "Being Mortal is a tour de force...Gawande is a gifted storyteller and his insights into the human condition are both illuminating and deeply moving."



Overall, "Being Mortal" is a highly recommended book for anyone interested in the ethics of medicine and the way we approach aging and dying in modern society. It challenges readers to think deeply about what matters most in life and how we can provide compassionate care to those at the end of life.



Being Mortal YouTube links

  1. "Being Mortal" Documentary Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VRkr09ZMI3w

  2. "Being Mortal" PBS Frontline Documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6a_aXZG0zq8

  3. Atul Gawande on "Being Mortal": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGJZCWlCXmU

  4. Atul Gawande's TED Talk on "How Do We Heal Medicine?": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qo6QNU8kHxI

  5. Atul Gawande's TED Talk on "What Matters in the End?": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvzJ8YCxiao


Being Mortal more links

  1. Atul Gawande's TED Talk: "How do we heal medicine?" https://www.ted.com/talks/atul_gawande_how_do_we_heal_medicine

  2. "Being Mortal" on PBS Frontline: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/being-mortal/

  3. Interview with Atul Gawande on NPR's "Fresh Air": https://www.npr.org/2014/10/06/353498263/atul-gawande-on-what-matters-at-the-end-of-life

  4. Article by Atul Gawande in The New Yorker: "Letting Go: What should medicine do when it can't save your life?" https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/08/02/letting-go-2

  5. "The Conversation Project" website, founded by Ellen Goodman and Atul Gawande, which provides resources for discussing end-of-life care: https://theconversationproject.org/

  6. "Being Mortal" discussion guide from the American Bar Association: https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/law_aging/toolkit_being_mortal_discussion_guide.authcheckdam.pdf

  7. "The Art of Aging" podcast episode featuring Atul Gawande: https://www.npr.org/2022/02/16/1081481321/the-art-of-aging-a-conversation-with-atul-gawande

  8. "Being Mortal" book review in The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/oct/17/being-mortal-illness-medicine-and-what-matters-in-the-end-review-atul-gawande

  9. "The Choice" documentary on PBS, featuring Atul Gawande's work with hospice patients: https://www.pbs.org/video/the-choice-2016-doc1a/

  10. "Being Mortal" book discussion guide from the Dartmouth Centers for Health and Aging: https://www.dartmouth-hitchcock.org/documents/CHOBDiscussionGuideFinal.pdf

Book Details

Author: Atul Gawande

Year of publication: 2014

Publisher: Metropolitan Books

Language: English

Number of pages: 304

Price : Rs 270 Paperback on Amazon

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