Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End Review
Book by: Atul Gawande
Quote of the Day
“It is not death that the very old tell me they fear. It is what happens short of death—losing their hearing, their memory, their best friends, their way of life. As Felix put it to me, “Old age is a continuous series of losses.” Philip Roth put it more bitterly in his novel Everyman: “Old age is not a battle. Old age is a massacre.”
― Atul Gawande, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
I passively listened to the audiobook while going about my day.
In decades past, when a person became elderly, they would be adopted by their community or children, and taken care of. In some eastern societies such as in India and China, this is still the case.
Being Old Is Not That Fun?
Yet, in western societies, the elderly are sent to retirement homes, live by themselves, or reside in hospitals on constant medications and operations.
Furthermore, being a doctor who takes care of elderly, is not an amazing profession, since the elderly come with an assortment of problems, rather than just one or two.
As a results, doctors will prescribe many treatments, medications, and solutions, which on average (according to the author), hasn’t fixed the issues, or made things slightly better, at the expense of making things worse elsewhere.
So Why Would I Care?
The author explains these predicaments through stories from his many years as a doctor. That is most of the book. You get a personal, emotional, human feel to the issues, rather than a data-driven, objective appeal.
My assumption with the first few chapters was that this book aims to deconstruct the benefits and rapid development of medicine, and technology.
But rather, it’s aim (from my interpretation) is to humanize the issues facing old people. It gives you a clear picture of what it’s like being old, and unable to take care of yourself.
We will all become old one day, and it will be interesting to see if we simply end up in a retirement home, live by ourselves, live in a hospital under strict control, or continue living a healthy fulfilling life.
A Humanistic Perspective
I think the author has written a compelling book about being old, but at the same time, it’s very heavily sensationalized and story-driven.