Thursday, April 16, 2015

Book Review : Being Mortal

Title : Being Mortal
Author : Atul Rawande
Publisher : Penguin Books Ltd.

'Doctors are trained to keep their patients alive as long as possible. But they are never taught how to prepare people to die. And yet for many patients, particularly the old and terminally ill, death is a question of when, not it.'

While one cannot underestimate the boons of medical science in a human's life, the other side of it cannot be ignored altogether. Thanks to research and advancements, we are able to witness a polio free world, reduced rates of child mortality, lesser complications in child birth, cures of diseases which were earlier fatal - to just name a few. However, we cannot completely overlook the fact that medicine has made dying really complicated and difficult.

And this is what Dr. Atul Rawande talks about in his book - Being Mortal.

Modern healthcare has increased the life span of average human beings from 60s and 70s to 80s and 90s. While medical science has done wonders in prolonging the life of the physical body but ageing of the body is beyond any science and as a result more and more elderly people end up in a phase where their frail bodies and other faculties need assistance.

Atul Gawande has rightly pointed out, 'In the past few decades, medical science has rendered obsolete centuries of experience, tradition and language about our mortality and created a new difficulty for mankind : how to die.'

It makes the readers introspect and many questions start clouding the mind - what is the right time to let go, when should medicinal intervention back off and let the person exit gracefully, respectfully and peacefully; what percentage of quality of life can be compromised for the quality or vice versa; where should one go when a patient is beyond any medicine or doctor; how does one wait for the final time knowing that it is approaching fast; where is the support for the affected and the family and many more. There is a high probability that each one of us will have to confront these questions in one's lifetime either for oneself or for some loved one.

Atul Gawande talks about nursing homes and other facilities in US which help an individual continue to have normal life as far as possible. Later he also talks about how one can die peacefully and gracefully and the organisations that are working to make it happen. People are recongnising the need of setups like Hospice care and other residential facilities which can spare a person from piercing needles and confined-to-bed state.

Towards the end he shares his own father's last stage of life from a tumour of the spine. He shares his emotions as a shocked and concerned son and as an informed surgeon but eventually her knows, he needs to pose the right question to his father in order to choose the right course moving forward. 
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