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Required Reading: Redefining The End of Life

Stria Staff March 19, 2018
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More than ever, medical science has the power to extend our lives. But at what cost to the spirit, happiness and dignity of its subjects? These authors are just a few of the many in the growing conversations around what we each deserve for our own life’s end.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
By Atul Gawande

In Being Mortal, bestselling author Atul Gawande tackles the hardest challenge of his profession: how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending. Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming birth, injury, and infectious disease from harrowing to manageable. But in the inevitable condition of aging and death, the goals of medicine seem too frequently to run counter to the interest of the human spirit. Nursing homes, preoccupied with safety, pin patients into railed beds and wheelchairs. Hospitals isolate the dying, checking for vital signs long after the goals of cure have become moot. Doctors, committed to extending life, continue to carry out devastating procedures that in the end extend suffering.

Gawande, a practicing surgeon, addresses his profession’s ultimate limitation, arguing that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. Gawande offers examples of freer, more socially fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and he explores the varieties of hospice care to demonstrate that a person’s last weeks or months may be rich and dignified. Full of eye-opening research and riveting storytelling, Being Mortal asserts that medicine can comfort and enhance our experience even to the end, providing not only a good life but also a good end. (From the publisher)

 

Why Survive?: Being Old in America
By Robert N. Butler, MD

The author questions the value of long life for its own sake, arguing that modern medicine has ironically created a group for whom survival is possible but satisfaction elusive. He proposed reforms to redefine and restructure the institutions responsible for the elderly in America. (From the publisher)

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