Friday, February 1, 2019

Beginning ~ with mortality

I learned about a lot of things in medical school, but mortality wasn't one of them. ... Our textbooks had almost nothing on aging or frailty or dying.  How the process unfolds, how people experience the end of their lives, and how it affects those around them seemed beside the point.  The way we saw it, and the way our professors saw it, the purpose of medical schooling was to teach how to save lives, not how to tend to their demise.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End ~ by Atul Gawande, 2014
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.  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.  He shows how the ultimate goal is not a good death, but a good life ― all the way to the very end.
As the author says in the quote shown above, I think well-being is what really matters.  I don't want to spend my dying days in a nursing home in a bed with rails that hold me in or tied into a wheelchair.  All that does is prolong my dying, not help me really live as I want to live.  Quality of life is (or should be) the desired goal.  I borrowed this book from the library three years ago, but I never got it read.  Now it's on my Kindle, and I'm ready to read it.

Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays.  Click this link for other book beginnings.


Helen's Book Blog said...

I think this is such an important book and have recommended it to many, many people. The chapters on death and dying are especially good.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

My real life book group read and discussed this book. With only a few exceptions, the members are retirement age and older, and we have all experienced death and dying in our parents, our siblings, our friends. It's a difficult subject, but its inevitability should result in more conversations, I think. I've tried to be clear and voice my objections to a nursing home life. I hope I've been heard.

Btw, this book was probably our favorite group read.