Review of the book Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
Gawande’s fourth popular book, Being Mortal, layers touching story after touching story into a devastating critique of how people approach the end of life. At times, keeping all the narratives straight proves difficult, yet each piece of each narrative remains powerful. These accounts are woven neatly together with personal and professional reflection as well as scholarship. For example, in the midst of telling readers about his grandmother-in-law's approach to the end of life, surgeon/journalist Gawande (Brigham and Women's Hospital; Harvard Medical School; The New Yorker) quotes B. Vladeck, summing up the origins of one problematic approach: “describing the history of nursing homes from the perspective of the elderly ‘is like describing the opening of the American West from the perspective of the mules’” (Unloving Care: The Nursing Home Tragedy, 1980). As Being Mortal draws to a close, Gawande offers some (albeit tentative) recommendations for improving how people face the end of life. Though he does not break new ground here, he rightly points out and announces human shortcomings in a way that all can see and understand.
Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries.
Abraham Schwab (2015).
Review of the book Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. Choice.52 (10), 1695.