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Being Mortal Hardcover – Oct 7 2014

4.7 out of 5 stars 114 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday Canada; First edition (Oct. 7 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385677006
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385677004
  • Product Dimensions: 14.7 x 2.8 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 381 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars 114 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #122 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


National Bestseller
A New York Times Bestseller

A Globe and Mail Best Book of 2014

Named one of The Guardian (UK)’s Five Best Psychology Books of 2014
Named one of The Telegraph (UK)’s Five Best Books of 2014
Named one of Amazon’s 100 Best Books of 2014
Named one of New York Times Book Review's 100 Notable Books of 2014
Named one of Maclean's Best Books of 2014

“If you are familiar with Gawande’s articles in The New Yorker, you are aware of this physician-writer’s eloquence and compassion. In his fourth book, he takes on the medicalizing of death, examining the unnecessary torture that life-extending interventions often impose. But this book offers more than just prescriptions: his intimate knowledge of our bodies and the fascinating stories he’s picked up over his career makes this book required reading for anyone involved in end-of-life issues. And that inevitably includes each and every one of us.”
Toronto Star

"One of a handful of truly exceptional physician-authors writing today. . . . Being Mortal is an important call-to-action for rethinking and improving virtually every aspect of end-of-life care. . . . If Gawande's book inspires even a handful of technology innovators to devote their skills and efforts to this area, then the world will be a better place." —Forbes

"In Being Mortal, Gawande has given us an empathetic, wise, and learned work on a necessary topic. This book deserves its wide readership, and that wide readership deserves this book."
Los Angeles Review of Books

“Wise and moving. . . . This timely and important book sets limits on the usefulness of scientific medicine when it comes to dying. Instead, Gawande turns to Tolstoy, Montaigne, Plato, family and medical experience to probe ways of meeting the end with dignity and courage.” 
The Guardian (UK)
 “Atul Gawande . . . is both philosophical and practical. . . . His book about our wrong-headed relationship to death is a must for readers of any age.” 
The Telegraph (UK)
“No book has all the answers, but Being Mortal should help to start some conversations.” 
Times Higher Education (UK)

“How do we create safe and meaningful final years? Ultimately, how do we want to die? . . . Atul Gawande addresses these questions with thoughtful originality. . . . Smart and compassionate, Being Mortal is a masterwork that will inspire new, and markedly better, views of the end of life.”
The Artery (Boston)
“While directed primarily toward medical professionals, Being Mortal is written with a vocabulary and style that makes it accessible to the average reader. His case studies bring the theoretical down to earth. It is an excellent book for a discussion group. . . . Gawande is eminently qualified to write on this subject.”
The Missourian (Washington)
“You should certainly read . . . Being Mortal. It is, like all [Gawande’s] books, written in a highly accessible style, laced with humane and luminous anecdotes. It addresses . . . an important and fascinating subject. . . . of pressing importance and relevance to everyone: ageing, illness, mortality and medicine.”
The Australian

“An important new book. . . . Gawande’s thoughtful prescriptions for better, smarter care of the elderly must not go unnoticed.” 
The Record (Kitchener-Waterloo)

“Here is a man who is not only a surgeon-storyteller, but a philosopher speaking with a poignant, profound and contemporary voice about issues which concerns [sic] us all, no matter where we live or who we are. . . . In his trademark style, Gawande mixes solid research with taut storytelling. We are invited to sit at the bedsides of his former patients, his family and his friends and experience their final days. There are passages which bring a lump to your throat. . . . But as you turn the final page, you are not left with a feeling of despair. . . . This is a book which emits courage and hope.” —Deccan Chronicle (India)
“An intimate exploration of ageing, dying, and the importance of identifying what matters most in our lives, especially at the very end. . . . It is written in a conversational style that is meant to educate rather than intimidate, and the insightful observations he makes will have you reaching for a highlighter, in the knowledge that you will be returning to this book for guidance in the future.” —The Hindu (India)
“This book is strongly recommended reading for everyone because we all have to deal with issues of ageing and death, personally or in the family, now or in the future. Even as it speaks of mortality, it tells us how to make the best of life.” —The Indian Express (India)
“Not only an extraordinary account of loss but one whose ideas are truly important.” —The Himalayan Times (Nepal)“A thoughtful, humane, unsparing examination of the ageing process, our treatment of the elderly, and our attitude towards death and end-of-life care. . . . Beautifully written.”
The Herald (Scotland)
“Characteristic of Gawande’s clear prose and recurring throughout . . .  is a cast of memorable characters, empathetically rendered, anecdote lending life to his analysis. . . . Gawande’s work is important. He offers no perfect solutions. There are no easy answers on how we safeguard the autonomy of the elderly, particularly in face of bad decisions, denial, or dementia. Instead, he is gently reminding us to try and do a little better for the elderly, to think a little harder, to give a little more, to be a little more creative, a little more sensitive. He makes a strong case that this will pay off for our loved ones. And, in time, for us.”

“So important. . . .Widespread and lasting change in our attitudes to being mortal is possible. Maybe Gawande . . . can trigger it.”
The Globe and Mail
“Wonderful, disturbing, but ultimately hopeful.”
Huffington Post

“[Gawande’s] book, written with his customary warmth and panache, is a plea to the medical profession and the rest of us to shift away from simply fighting for longer life towards fighting for the things that make life meaningful. . . . Gawande’s clinical reports, thick with the particularities of people’s passions, the singularity of their existence, suggest that what matters is the individual.”
The Guardian (UK)
“Gawande presents a detailed, but highly readable history of how the meaning of death has changed over the past fifty or sixty years. He presents this history in the careful voice of a medical professional, but textured with the stories of older people he's met through his family and his practice. . . . These stories within the story help Gawande drive home the crucial point at the center of his book: that throughout the developed world, our approach to death has completely changed in just a few generations. And with that change come a host of new questions.”
Huffington Post

Being Mortal is a valuable contribution to the growing literature on aging, death and dying. It contains unsparing descriptions of bodily aging and the way it often takes us by surprise. Gawande is a gifted storyteller. . . . The stories give a dignified voice to older people in the process of losing their independence. We see the world from their perspective, not just those of their physicians and worried family members.”
The New York Times Book Review

“An impassioned, broad-ranging and deeply personal exploration. . . . Gawande remains clear-sighted through the muddle of anxieties, conflicting emotions and vested interests. . . . 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.”
The Guardian (UK)
“Gawande’s wise and courageous book raises the questions that none of us wants to think about. . . . His book is a scathing indictment of the way modern medicine treats the old and the dying.”
The Sunday Times (UK)
“Fascinating. . . . Dr Gawande writes very well, his book is deeply humane and I learned much from it.”
The Times (UK)
“This humane and beautifully written book is a manifesto that could radically improve the lives of the aged and terminally ill.” —The Independent (UK) 
“[Gawande’s] latest book, Being Mortal, is his most ambitious to date. . . . Prose is crisp and clean . . . . More lyrical than his earlier work.”
The Guardian (UK)
Being Mortal . . .  Atul Gawande’s masterful exploration of aging, death, and the medical profession’s mishandling of both, is his best and most personal book yet. . . . Inspiring.”
The Boston Globe
“Touching. . . . Dr. Gawande’s book is not of the kind that some doctors write, reminding us how grim the fact of death can be. Rather, Dr. Gawande shows how patients in the terminal phase of their illness can maintain important qualities of life. . . . 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.”
The Wall Street Journal
“Rarely do doctors write so eloquently. . . . These are arguments that can’t be made too often, and they are not often made this well. . . . A wise and potent conversion tale.”
The New York Times
Being Mortal uses a clear, illuminating style to describe the medical facts and cases that have brought him to that understanding. . . . Honest, serious and empathetic.”
The New York Times Book Review

“A determined, heartbreaking effort. . . . 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.”
The New York Times
“Gawande has combined his years of experience as a surgeon with his gift for fluid, seemingly effortless storytelling to remind readers that despite stunning technical advances, doctors are human—and as fallible as any of us. . . . [His] writing is clear and concise and yet gentle and humane. And most important, honest. He finds a way to talk about death and dying safely. His work suggests ways that might repair our culture's warped view of death. . . . Being Mortal is not an easy read. But it is essential.”
Chicago Tribune
“Distressed by how ‘the waning days of our lives are given over to treatments that addle our brains and sap our bodies for a sliver’s chance of benefit,’ surgeon Gawande confronts the contemporary experience of aging and dying. As a writer and a doctor, Gawande appreciates the value of a good ending.”
Booklist, starred review
“A book I cannot recommend highly enough. . . . A clear-eyed, informative exploration of what growing old means in the 21st century; it provides a useful roadmap of what we can and should be doing to make the last years of life meaningful for everyone experiencing the aging process up close. . . . A book about aging and dying is, ultimately, a book about how to live.”

“Eloquent, moving. . . . Many passages in Being Mortal will bring a lump to the throat, but Dr. Gawande also visits places offering a better way to manage life’s end. . . . In life, as in all stories, he writes, ‘endings matter.’”
The Economist
“A clear eyed look at aging and death in 21st-century America. . . .  Gawande offers a timely account of how modern Americans cope with decline and mortality. . . . A sensitive, intelligent and heartfelt examination of the processes of aging and dying.”
Kirkus Reviews
“Gawande . . . has fearlessly revealed the struggles of his profession. Now he examines its ultimate limitations and failures—in his own practices as well as others’—as life draws to a close.”
The Guardian (UK)

“A deeply affecting, urgently important book—one not just about dying and the limits of medicine but about living to the last with autonomy, dignity, and joy.” 
“We have come to medicalize aging, frailty, and death, treating them as if they were just one more clinical problem to overcome. However, it is not only medicine that is needed in one’s declining years but life—a life with meaning, a life as rich and full as possible under the circumstances. Being Mortal is not only wise and deeply moving, it is an essential and insightful book for our times, as one would expect from Atul Gawande, one of our finest physician writers.”
“North American medicine, Being Mortal reminds us, has prepared itself for life but not for death. This is Atul Gawande’s most powerful—and moving—book.”

About the Author

Atul Gawande is the author of three bestselling books: Complications, a finalist for the National Book Award; Better, selected by as one of the ten best books of 2007; and The Checklist Manifesto. He is also a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, a staff writer for The New Yorker, and a professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health. He has won the Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science, a MacArthur Fellowship, and two National Magazine Awards. In his work in public health, he is director of Ariadne Labs, a joint center for health systems innovation, and chairman of Lifebox, a nonprofit organization making surgery safer globally. He and his wife have three children and live in Newton, Massachusetts.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Well written, easily understood. Philosophies to think about, doctors vs other professionals, picking what's right for you, thinking what's right for you. A topic not covered in such an easy way. Has made me understand this phase of life we all are headed for where there is little general understanding or preparation. I learned a lot. WONDERFUL and will read again.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
How do I want to die?

Reflections on Atul Gawande’s
“Being Mortal – Medicine and What Matters in the End”

Many of the case studies and personal experiences that surgeon and writer Atul Gawande depicts in his new book “Being Mortal” resonated with my own recent history of the deaths of my family members.

Gawande talks about patients with whom he worked during their struggles with ultimately incurable diseases. He carries us with him as he, despite his professional expertise, describes his sense of inadequacy when he accompanies his own father in his last years, months, weeks and days.

All the way through my reading of “Being Mortal,” my mind and heart were constantly flipping between the text on the page and the searing memories of the end-of-life for my parents, my partner Bill’s parents, my younger brother who committed suicide and Bill’s two weeks between his diagnosis with pancreatic cancer and his death.

Gawande has five themes, at least as I read his book. Firstly, we can do so much better than we are in facilitating an enriching lifestyle for aging persons so that they can retain autonomy and engagement in life-enhancing interactions with family, community and society, a key element in retaining a sense of purpose and meaning. This applies even to those with cognitive impairment as Gawande illustrates with detailed examples. Secondly, our social and health care systems need to retreat from trying to medicalize every problem utilizing extreme measures to keep people alive regardless of the quality of their living. Thirdly, families and professionals need to relinquish their fear of losing the dying person and refocus on helping them access whatever supports are necessary for spending their remaining time as they want to.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What a breath of fresh air! I loved this book. Here are the three top reasons:
1. Gawande uses the experience of both his American and Indian extended families to explore a wide range of options for elder care. He approaches all cultures with kindness and respect.
2. Gawande opens his heart to the reader as he recounts stories, not only of patients, but also of his birth family and his in-laws. In these stories, he is not always the good guy. I got to watch his ideas change. This allowed me to change with him.
3. Although I remember the stories, the book is underpinned by solid medical and social research.
I've been passing this book around since I finished reading it, and my friends are now passing other copies around in their broader circles.
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This book is a deeply personal journey by Dr. Gawande. He shows us his own flawed response to his aging and failing patients and how he learned to serve them better. He says, "I never expected that among the most meaningful experiences I'd have as a doctor - and, really, as a human being - would come from helping others deal with what medicine cannot do as well as what it can."

This is his realization: that doctors (and most of us) do not know what to offer except more medicine when there is no happy ending. Because of this, dying individuals are urged to endure treatments which have only a tiny chance of helping, and are guaranteed to create suffering. What he offers instead is the acceptance of limitations and a conversation with the person about what they most value, and what they are willing to give up to get it.

This medicalization of our natural decline has also led to institutions which assume the elderly infirm are to be passive recipients of the systematized care on offer in nursing homes.Here, too, Dr. Gawande illustrates the harm being done.

This is not a negative book in any sense. Although he shows the harm, Dr. Gawande also shows the healing of his own attitudes and the many brilliant attempts being made by others too improve the system in wonderful directions. His narrative is full of individuals whose lives he brings to us both as warnings and as examples, including members of his own family. Most of the warnings take a turn which shows the decisions points that make all the difference in outcomes.

What I am left with is a sense that courage is needed to face up to our end-of-life experiences. We need to look our decline in the face and claim our choices based on what really matters to us and what gives our lives meaning.
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By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on Dec 15 2014
Format: Hardcover
For those of us who periodically consider the growing prospects of our mortality, Gawande has written a very informative and sensitive little book on how to navigate these often deep and troubling waters when it comes to health issues. For starters, as a prominent surgeon he does not prescribe a lot of specific courses of action to make aging more palatable. Too much of that presumptuous attitude already exists in the medical system to the point of possibly making the last ten years of our lives more miserable than they have to be. Rather, Gawande is a compassionate and intelligent person who wants to reach out to others who are seeking an effective way to work through debilitating diseases, infirmities, and physical pain. Doctors like himself should be informative and interpretative when counseling their patients as to what is available in the way of realistic treatment - natural, holistic, palliative, assisted, curative - but, in the end, the choice remains with those seeking guidance. Do a good job on explaining the ins and outs of therapies and models of geriatric living, and the patient invariably finds what he or she wants and needs to extend life for whatever reasons. Getting the patient to take ownership of the plan, with the support of family, is something that requires building a relationship based on trust, patience, and compassion. This study talks about a number of models out there that Gawande considers worth looking at in making these final years worth living. Nothing is ruled out as long as it takes the patient to the next stage of the journey. His or her description of assisted/independent living in a community setting, as an alternative to traditional nursing homes, really got me thinking.Read more ›
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