Sunday, October 18, 2015

Book Review: "Being Mortal" by Atul Gawande

"If end of life discussions were an experimental drug, the FDA would approve it." - one of my favorite quotes from "Being Mortal".

Yes - the book is about mortality, aging and the slow, steady descent into the oblivion.

And yes - it does make you feel a bit uncomfortable since you are forced to think about your own mortality and the mortality of your loved ones.

But the book makes a few great points and it is definitely worth swallowing the hard pill.

We all accept & acknowledge death as a distant entity - something that we can deal with when the time comes. We prefer not to think, discuss or even entertain the notion of 'the end' - and understandably so - who would ? "Being Mortal" points out that it is never too early to at least give one's own mortality a thought. 

Instead of bombarding with too much medical jargon & statistical data, the author takes you through various stories of real life people - his patients in fact. The book explains what getting old means from a physiological, medical standpoint - but also points out the human & psychological aspects of it. The pitfalls of 'just-fix-what-is-broken-right-now' attitude of modern medicine is explained pretty well. 

The book talks at length about the existing facilities & institutions in place. But it doesn't sugar coat it. It blatantly points out the depressing state of affairs at these facilities & logically explains how we arrived at such a state. It does mention some refreshing options too - like hospice care, assisted living etc.

We always prefer the most aggressive procedures, the most modern harmful-but-effective medicines, the most risky surgeries - and it does make sense in 99.99% of the scenarios, but not always.
Failure to recognize that the aged and the sick might have priorities beyond merely staying alive and living longer is important. 
I have to admit that the book definitely made me think about this fact.

I did not find the book too preachy. It clearly accepts that we do Not have answers. 
But it at least raises and asks us to think about the right questions.

All in all, definitely recommended.

It probably wasn't the right decision to start reading this book on my birthday, or maybe... it was just the perfect timing for a book like this. :-)