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Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End Hardcover – Deckle Edge, Oct 7 2014

4.7 out of 5 stars 118 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books; 1 edition (Oct. 7 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805095152
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805095159
  • Product Dimensions: 14.5 x 2.7 x 21.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 408 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars 118 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #47,954 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


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. (Boston Globe)

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. (Malcolm Gladwell)

Beautifully crafted . . . Being Mortal?is a clear-eyed, informative exploration of what growing old means in the 21st?century . . . a book I cannot recommend highly enough. This should be mandatory reading for every American. . . . it provides a useful roadmap of what we can and should be doing to make the last years of life meaningful. (

Masterful . . . Essential . . . For more than a decade, Atul Gawande has explored the fault lines of medicine . . . combining his years of experience as a surgeon with his gift for fluid, seemingly effortless storytelling . . . In Being Mortal, he turns his attention to his most important subject yet. (Chicago Tribune)

Beautifully written . . . In his newest and best book, Gawande . . . has provided us with a moving and clear-eyed look at aging and death in our society, and at the harms we do in turning it into a medical problem, rather than a human one. (The New York Review of Books)

Powerful. (New York Magazine)

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. (Katherine Boo)

Dr. Gawande's book is not of the kind that some doctors write, reminding us how grim the fact of death can be. Rather, he shows how patients in the terminal phase of their illness can maintain important qualities of life. (Wall Street Journal (Best Books of 2014))

Being Mortal left me tearful, angry, and unable to stop talking about it for a week. . . . A surgeon himself, Gawande is eloquent about the inadequacy of medical school in preparing doctors to confront the subject of death with their patients. . . . it is rare to read a book that sparks with so much hard thinking. (Nature)

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. (Oliver Sacks)

Gawande's book is so impressive that one can believe that it may well [change the medical profession] . . . May it be widely read and inwardly?digested. (Diana Athill, Financial Times (UK))

Eloquent, moving. (The Economist (Best Books of 2014))

A great read that leaves you better equipped to face the future, and without making you feel like you just took your medicine. (Mother Jones (Best Books of 2014))

Beautiful. (New Republic)

Gawande displays the precision of his surgical craft and the compassion of a humanist . . . in a narrative that often attains the force and beauty of a novel . . . Only a precious few books have the power to open our eyes while they move us to tears. Atul Gawande has produced such a work. One hopes it is the spark that ignites some revolutionary changes in a field of medicine that ultimately touches each of us. (Shelf Awareness (Best Books of 2014))

A needed call to action, a cautionary tale of what can go wrong, and often does, when a society fails to engage in a sustained discussion about aging and dying. (San Francisco Chronicle)

About the Author

Atul Gawande
is author of three bestselling books: Complications, a finalist for the National Book Award; Better, selected by Amazon as one of the ten best books of 2007; and The Checklist Manifesto. His latest book is Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. 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 Executive 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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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