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A Book Review

Posted 10/9/2014

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  Although I have now been writing to the expanded title and (hoped for) audience for a week, I suspect that things have not really changed a great deal. I am grateful to my colleagues at BIDMC who have all sorts of exciting plans re placement and marketing of this blog. Those of you who have been longer term readers, and any of you who are new (and welcome), know that my topics are diverse, and that one of the real pleasures is introducing you to a wonderful opportunity or book or resource.

  Today's second entry (and a second because I will be traveling tomorrow and probably unable to write) is about a remarkable new book called Being Mortal by Dr. Atul Gawande. Some of you may be familiar with his work from The New Yorker or may have read one of his earlier books. Everything that I have read has been terrific, but this book gets more than rave reviews. I have ordered it for myself, am eager to begin. Maybe we can have a book club of sorts and read it more or less together. I would love to hear your thoughts.

  All of us who have had a cancer diagnosis have given some thought to the absolute fact of our mortality. Older people with cancer may have been thinking about this anyway, but few people in their 30s or 40s or even 50s have it too much on their daily radar screens. Then, all of a sudden, it is the whole screen.

  Here is the start of an essay from The New York Times about this book and then a link to read the rest. You can find your own way to the library or a book store or Amazon.

Don’t Spoil the Ending
‘Being Mortal’ Explores the Benefits of Setting Goals for Death
OCT. 6, 2014
Perhaps we should reform the medical profession by keeping the young and immortal out of it. Let’s bar medical
school entry till age 50: Presumably that would fix our present bizarre disconnect between the army of doctors
bent on preserving life and the tiny band able to accept death. Doctors would come equipped with the age-bred
wisdom to understand the continuum, and they would demand a health care system that did likewise.
That’s not happening any time soon. As things stand, though, at least we have the bittersweet pleasure of
watching the occasional thoughtful defection from the mighty army to the little band.
Dr. Atul Gawande, possibly the most articulate defector yet, has made his considerable reputation primarily
as a fix-it man. As a Harvard surgeon he patches up organs; as a longtime writer for The New Yorker he has both described and prescribed for many of our profession’s troubles. The recent widespread enthusiasm for checklists to minimize medical errors can be traced more or less directly to his pen.
Now Dr. Gawande (heading for 50) has turned his attention to mortality, otherwise known as the one big
thing in medicine that cannot be fixed. In fact, the better doctors perform, the older, more enfeebled and more
convincingly mortal our patients become. And someone should figure out how to take better care of all of them
soon, because their friends, neighbors and children are at their wits’ end.


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