Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
Medicine and What Matters in the End

82%

42 Critic Reviews

Gawande identifies no perfect solutions to the problems inherent in bodily decline. He is just asking us to commit ourselves to creating better options and making choices with the goal of a purposeful life in mind.
-NY Times

Synopsis


In Being Mortal, bestselling author Atul Gawande tackles the hardest challenge of his profession: how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending

Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming birth, injury, and infectious disease from harrowing to manageable. But in the inevitable condition of aging and death, the goals of medicine seem too frequently to run counter to the interest of the human spirit. Nursing homes, preoccupied with safety, pin patients into railed beds and wheelchairs. Hospitals isolate the dying, checking for vital signs long after the goals of cure have become moot. Doctors, committed to extending life, continue to carry out devastating procedures that in the end extend suffering.

Gawande, a practicing surgeon, addresses his profession's ultimate limitation, arguing that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. Gawande offers examples of freer, more socially fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and he explores the varieties of hospice care to demonstrate that a person's last weeks or months may be rich and dignified.
Full of eye-opening research and riveting storytelling, Being Mortal asserts that medicine can comfort and enhance our experience even to the end, providing not only a good life but also a good end.

 

About Atul Gawande

See more books from this Author
Atul Gawande is the author of Better and Complications, a National Book Award finalist. He is also a MacArthur Fellow, a general surgeon at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, a staff writer for The New Yorker, and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health. He served as a senior health policy advisor in the Clinton presidential campaign and White House from 1992 to 1993. He received his B.A.S. from Stanford University, M.A. in politics, philosophy and economics from Oxford University, M.D. from Harvard Medical School, and M.P.H. from the Harvard School of Public Health. He lives with his wife and three children in Newton, Massachusetts.
 
Published October 7, 2014 by Metropolitan Books. 300 pages
Genres: Professional & Technical, Political & Social Sciences, Health, Fitness & Dieting, Self Help, Parenting & Relationships, Science & Math. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Oct 26 2014
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Critic reviews for Being Mortal
All: 42 | Positive: 41 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Above average
on Jul 14 2014

By confronting the reality rather than pretending it can be beaten...the medical establishment can offer the kind of compassion that allows for more humane ways to die. As Gawande reminds readers, “endings matter.” A sensitive, intelligent and heartfelt examination of the processes of aging and dying.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Sheri Fink on Nov 06 2014

Gawande identifies no perfect solutions to the problems inherent in bodily decline. He is just asking us to commit ourselves to creating better options and making choices with the goal of a purposeful life in mind.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Janet Maslin on Oct 16 2014

“Being Mortal” uses a clear, illuminating style to describe the medical facts and cases that have brought him to that understanding.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Abigail Zuger on Oct 06 2014

This book is an acknowledgment that serenity and well-being actually cannot be dished up cafeteria-style — and that sometimes the only sure way to gain control is first to relinquish it, whether to a bad disease, a dying patient or the constraints of a finite life span.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Geraldine Bedell on Nov 02 2014

...Gawande is rightly scathing about a system that exists largely as a form of containment, where the temptation is to deal with people as if they are inconvenient.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Gavin Francis on Oct 22 2014

The message resounding through Being Mortal is that our lives have narrative – we all want to be the authors of our own stories, and in stories endings matter.

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NY Journal of Books

Above average
Reviewed by Diane Brandley on Nov 02 2014

Neither hospice nor palliative care are new concepts on the horizon of medical care, yet Dr. Gawande’s astute presentation of an argument in favor of patient wellbeing is food for thought...for all of us who inevitably face the time when we will be making our own decisions regarding end-of-life issues and/or decisions for our loved ones.

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Blog Critics

Good
Reviewed by Lidia de Leon on Nov 15 2014

Balancing well-crafted research with insightful windows into the human dimension, Gawande comes up with an analysis that is both thought-provoking and wonderfully written...

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WSJ online

Above average
Reviewed by Paul McHugh on Oct 16 2014

“Being Mortal” doesn’t gloss over what awaits us all, but it fixes our attention on the ways in which a patient’s wishes might be fulfilled...

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Globe and Mail

Good
Reviewed by Alex Hutchinson on Nov 07 2014

All of this is so profoundly sensible that you begin to wonder who could possibly disagree. The answer is, more or less, no one.

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The Economist

Above average
on Oct 04 2014

In this eloquent, moving book Atul Gawande, a general surgeon and author of other thoughtful works on the doctor’s trade, explains how and why modern medicine has turned the end of life into something so horrible.

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The Independent

Good
Reviewed by Leyla Sanai on Oct 23 2014

This humane and beautifully written book is a manifesto that could radically improve the lives of the aged and terminally ill.

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The Boston Globe

Above average
Reviewed by Suzanne Koven on Oct 11 2014

...is his best and most personal book yet — though a little depressing, until you get to the parakeets.

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BookPage

Excellent
Reviewed by Henry L. Carrigan Jr. on Oct 07 2014

Nothing short of a manifesto, Gawande’s book should be on the shelf of every health care professional as well as required reading for anyone—which is to say, most of us—facing the prospect of providing for an aging family member.

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San Francisco Chronicle

Good
Reviewed by Holly Tucker on Oct 13 2014

...what comes through clearly and most convincingly in “Being Mortal” is the absolute importance of taking one’s head out of the sand when it comes to the inevitable. To die a good death means finding, in life, the courage to have caring and frequent conversations with family members and health care providers.

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Open Letters Monthly

Above average
Reviewed by Rohan Maitzen on Jun 23 2015

Being Mortal seems to me particularly valuable precisely because these thoughts and conversations are so difficult.

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Seattle PI

Above average
Reviewed by Lidia de Leon on Nov 14 2014

Gawande's own experience with his father, whose illness brought the author face to face with many of the same scenarios encountered by the patients he talks about in the book, culminates in a haunting epilogue...

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The Miami Herald

Good
Reviewed by FRANK DAVIES on Oct 31 2014

Many skilled clinicians, trained to fix purely medical problems, will find have difficulty focusing on the human needs of their patients and helping them confront mortality...This book is an eloquent, heartfelt cry for change. We can only hope it opens a few eyes.

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Chron.com

Good
Reviewed by Allan Turner on Oct 26 2014

Gawande performs admirably in presenting patient vignettes — including an account of his septuagenarian father’s last days — in finely nuanced detail, tracing hopes and dashed expectations as each moves toward the end.

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Keizertimes

Excellent
Reviewed by Terri Schlichenmeyer on Nov 06 2014

I think if you’re a caretaker for an elderly relative or if you ever plan on growing old yourself and want to maintain quality of life, this book is an absolute must-read. For you, “Being Mortal” is informative to the end.

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Newcity Lit

Good
Reviewed by Toni Nealie on Dec 01 2014

Gawande posits the idea that a life worth living can be created for all stages of life. The job of medicine is not merely to ensure health and survival, but to enable wellbeing. He asks us to have the courage to confront our mortality, to be more honest about our limits...Gawande makes reading about death easy.

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Times Higher Education

Good
Reviewed by Helen Bynum on Jan 08 2015

This is the language of hospice, which is not necessarily an institution but more a humane way of death. That, says Gawande, is what truly empowers patients. No book has all the answers, but Being Mortal should help to start some conversations.

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Women's Voices for Change

Good
Reviewed by Jane Moffett on Jul 25 2015

Being Mortal offers valuable insights about the continuum of care options in the final stages of aging. Gawande has helped me prepare for the ways in which the glide-path of aging eventually turns to a steep decline, and how to think about the difficult choices...

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Savannah Now

Good
Reviewed by Terri Schlichenmeyer on Nov 01 2014

I think if you’re a caretaker for an elderly relative or if you ever plan on growing old yourself and want to maintain quality of life, this book is an absolute must-read. For you, “Being Mortal” is informative to the end.

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Seven Ponds

Above average
Reviewed by Kimberly Lane on Oct 21 2014

In this book, Gawande is able to build a narrative through the collection of experiences that leads to the conclusion that as we perceive ourselves as closer to death, our thoughts on mortality transform our goals and values to that of simpler things.

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ReviewAtlas.com

Good
Reviewed by Rae Padilla Francoeur on Oct 22 2014

Much of the book’s value is in its very existence. It gives us a place from which to continue the discussion. Also valuable are the many anecdotes Gawande gives us — stories of people who are making a difference, either by their own examples or in their groundbreaking entrepreneurial efforts.

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Inside Business

Good
Reviewed by Terri Schlichenmeyer, on Dec 05 2014

I think if you're a caretaker for an elderly relative or if you ever plan on growing old yourself and want to maintain quality of life, this book is an absolute must-read. For you, "Being Mortal" is informative to the end.

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http://skrishnasbooks.com

Excellent
Reviewed by Swapna Krishna on Nov 10 2014

Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End is a gorgeously written, thoughtful, and heartbreaking book that should be required reading. Gawande manages to discuss some very difficult and provocative subjects while still maintaining a clear-eyed and gripping narrative.

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Things Mean a Lot

Excellent
Reviewed by Ana S. on Apr 02 2015

As I read Being Mortal, I learned a lot: not only about the challenges and realities of old age and terminal illness, but also about the importance of gerontology and palliative care and the specialised, contextual knowledge they use to help patients. I’ll be surprised if I read a better work of non-fiction this year.

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Lit Lovers

Good
Reviewed by Molly Lundquist on Nov 28 2014

Being Mortal is richly told. Gawanda follows the lives and paths of a number of individuals, including his own father, as they come to grips with aging or fatal illnesses. It's the kind of book that will have you nodding your head, and it should make a big difference in the national conversation about end times.

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Bibliophile By the Sea

Excellent
Reviewed by (Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea on Nov 30 2015

I can't say that there is much that is upbeat about this book, but it is beautifully and compassionately written and easy to understand. I enjoyed the personal stories about from the author's family and practice as a Boston surgeon. An important book for end of life decision making.

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Sophisticated Dorkiness

Good
Reviewed by Kim on Mar 05 2015

We all have individual needs and expectations for what our lives will look like as we age, and the only way to honor them is to truly listen. This book is a great way to start those conversations.

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Guys Lit Wire

Above average
Reviewed by WPOLKING on Apr 13 2015

Dying is part of all of our stories, but we have become increasingly uncomfortable discussing it. Gawande stresses that although we have learned how to live longer, we must relearn how to die.

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Bermuda Onion's Weblog

Good
on Feb 23 2016

I’ve become very picky about the books I keep these days and will be adding Being Mortal to my permanent shelves. If you haven’t read this book yet, I urge you to do so.

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Rated Reads

Good
Reviewed by Craig Smith on Jun 12 2015

Thanks to Dr. Gawande, we now have answers to many of our questions, and we are better equipped to assist those we care about to feel more at ease as they continue on toward the next phase of their lives.

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http://www.dawn.com

Above average
Reviewed by FAISAL BARI on Jan 25 2015

This is not an easy choice to make — for those unwell or their families. But given the fact of our mortality and the limits of medicine, it is a choice that many have had to make and will have to make.

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The Novel Life

Excellent
Reviewed by Stacy on Feb 06 2016

So much in Being Mortal is not only great writing but conversations that we should be having, in our families, our communities, and society.

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If You Write It

Good
on Feb 07 2015

Few of us are prepared for the end of life when it arrives. Being Mortal proposes that we should be ready to make a choice...Being Mortal was an interesting book and well worth reading.

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http://www.theepochtimes.com

Good
Reviewed by Chelsea Scarnegie on Oct 25 2015

Atul Gawande’s “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End” is a book with heart, and it attempts to share that heart with those who read it.

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Words Written Down

Good
Reviewed by Dave on Nov 09 2014

It’s fascinating reading from Gawande that definitely goes way beyond the idea of a doctor and the medical community as simply being there to try to fix a health problem. Great book, highly recommended.

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ScienceThrillers.com

Excellent
Reviewed by Amy Rogers on Apr 07 2015

A page-turning, beautiful, important book that won’t take you long to read but will empower you and give you much to think about. Highly recommended.

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Ms. Wordopolis Reads

Good
Reviewed by Rebecca on Oct 12 2014

As tough as the subject of this book is, it was a very good: the writing is not dry. And because he uses stories about his own family members as well as some stories of his patients, Gawande is constantly providing context to his points about how to lead a meaningful life while you are dying.

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