Being Mortal

We are reviewing the second book in our CCRC LifeCast Book ClubBeing Mortal by Atul Gawande.

Dr. Gawande examines choices made near the end of life, both as a surgeon and as a son.  He walks along side his own father during his final months. Through this experience, Dr. Gawande concludes the quality of daily life needs to be a higher priority in the final stage of life.  Time without quality is of little value.  Dr. Gawande lovingly discusses the grace and compassion needed in this final walk.



Being Mortal‘s central thread is condensed into three central questions. A patient’s answers to these questions will define their final priorities and associated care.

  1.  What are your biggest fears?
  2. What goals are important to you?
  3. What trade-offs are you willing to make and what trade-offs are you not willing to make?

Dr. Gawande witnessed hospice nurses ask similar questions.  These questions helped patient’s define their priorities and share these priorities with their family. Interestingly, patients are often better at dealing with the reality of the choices than family members.

Pick up this book and let us know what you think.  We liked it as a thoughtful look into palliative care.  Dr. Gawande shares how to ask and frame these three questions.

We will all walk those final steps. Asking these questions will aid in our loved ones final care and will be an opportunity for a better life’s end.  We hope books like Being Mortal will aid families in this final life stage.

Patients and their families can choose what’s done for them.  The default setting in health care is aggressive, even hopeless, pursuit of cures and not palliative care. This theme of patient-directed care is an emerging “best practice” across a range of senior services and health care. It requires proactive patients (and families) and responsive, service-oriented providers. We’ll watch for this philosophy in our survey of CCRCs.

Dr. Gawande will be a featured speaker at the Leading Age conference in Boston the first week in November.  We will be attending the conference and we chose this book to complement this event!  Maybe we’ll see you there :).

An Interview with Dr. Gawande and the 5 questions to ask