The Village Zendo Book Group Meeting
Being Mortal: Illness, Medicine, and What Matters in the End
By Atul Gawande
I read Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal soon after its publication in 2014, having seen rave reviews of the book. I was moved deeply on many levels—personal, familial, spiritual, political.Drawing on his experiences as a surgeon, professor, feature writer for The New Yorker and beloved son of an aging, dying father, Gawande captures the modern experience of mortality and medicine’s limits and failures at the end of life. Gawande takes the reader step by step to his essential conclusion: the ultimate goal should not be a good death, but rather a good life to the very end.
Gawande says: “We’ve been wrong about what our job is in medicine. We think our job is to ensure health and survival. But really it is larger than that. It is to enable well-being. And well-being is about the reasons one wishes to be alive. Those reasons matter not just at the end of life, or when debility comes, but all along the way. Whenever serious sickness or injury strikes and your body or mind breaks down, the vital questions are the same: What is your understanding of the situation and its potential outcomes? What are your fears and what are your hopes? What are the trade-offs you are willing to make and not willing to make? And what is the course of action that best serves this understanding?”