"People with serious illness have priorities besides simply prolonging their lives.Surveys find that their top concerns include avoiding suffering, strengthening relationships with family and friends, being mentally aware, not being a burden on others, and achieving a sense that their life is complete. Our system of technological medical care has utterly failed to meet these needs, and the cost of this failure is measured in far more than dollars. The question therefore is not how we can afford this system’s expense. It is how we can build a healthcare system that will actually help people achieve what’s most important to them at the end of their lives."
Atul Gawande is a highly respected surgeon and a writer for The New Yorker. His powerful and moving new book -- Being Mortal -- was number four on last Sunday's New York Times bestseller list for nonfiction.
Usually at this point in blog posts I would go on -- and on and on -- summarizing the book's message. But I have a new resolve to shorten my posts. More compellingly, Gawande has provided his own excellent descriptions during recent interviews, and he is far more articulate than I am. There are several wonderful interviews at the end of this post.
Something Gawande described was especially interesting to me -- the questions he asked his own father, also a surgeon, in his final days. These questions come from the work of Susan Block, an expert in palliative medicine.
- What is your understanding of what is happening to you?
- What are your fears about what is happening?
- What are your goals if your condition worsens?
- What trade-offs are you willing to make and not willing to make to try to stop what is happening?
I'll try to answer those questions myself in a future post.
This interview takes over an hour. At first, I began playing it in the back ground while doing something else on the computer. Within a few minutes, I was giving it my full attention.