I just finished reading an important book for our times – a reflection on dealing with end of live issues and what constitutes a good death both for the individual and the family.

Grim stuff? Yes. But maybe we need to face it.

The author of “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End” is Atul Gawande, a Boston surgeon and frequent contributor to The New Yorker.

A few excerpts:

“The problem with medicine and the institutions it has spawned for the care of the sick and the old is not that they have had an incorrect view of what makes life significant. The problem is that they have had almost no view at all. Medicine’s focus is narrow. Medical professionals concentrate on repair of health, not sustenance of the soul.”

He later goes on to talk about the hospice movement, and that aspect of medical care to help the individual savor the day.

“I am leery of suggesting the idea that endings are controllable. No one ever really has control. Physics and biology and accident ultimately have their way in our lives. But the point is that we are not helpless either. Courage is the strength to recognize both realities. We have room to act, to shape our stories, though as time goes on it is within narrower and narrower confines.”

Dr Gawande lists serious questions that need to be posed before a crisis is at hand:

  •     What is your (the ill person’s) understanding of the health situation and its outcome?
  •     What are your hopes, your fears?
  •     What trade-offs are you willing/ not willing to make?
  •     What is the course of action to best serve these understandings?

I highly recommend this book.