Free Essay with an Assessment of Antul Gawande's Being Mortal

Published: 2022-05-13
Free Essay with an Assessment of Antul Gawande's Being Mortal
Type of paper:  Book review
Categories:  Literature Healthcare
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1103 words
10 min read

The book "Being Mortal" by Antul Gawande is a book that gives a surgeon's view of how we should spend the end of our lives. It addresses a neglected topic and stirs up debate on a topic that is all too far-reaching and all too neglected. The main argument in the book, presented through personal tales, work experiences, and research findings, is that people should shift away from the struggle for a longer life and instead focus on living a meaningful life. Gawande emphasizes this idea for older people for whom logic dictates that their lives are soon to be over. The author argues that fighting so hard to prolong their lives simply makes them more miserable and prolongs their suffering while allowing them to choose their own ending gives them a measure of control over their lives. Most importantly, 'Being Mortal' discusses the limitation in old age treatments and how they often make the lives of old people miserable. In this essay, we shall first assess the relationship of Gawande's book to the course material and then respond to some of the arguments made in the book as well as commentary on its suitability.

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How does 'Being Mortal' relate to the course material?

Some of the course material used in this class is the study text The death system according to Robert Kastenbaum which makes the accusation that the Americans are a death-denying people. While all past and present cultures maintain death systems, some systems are geared more towards preventing it than dealing with or making it more fulfilling. The article, and the underlying discussion of the death systems principle by Robert Kastenbaum, further corroborates the assertions made by Gawande in Being Mortal. That America is a death-denying society is the thrust of Gawande's book, shown in anecdotes about some of the pain (physical, emotional, or mental) suffered by old people as their families fight to keep them alive a little longer.

According to Kellehear (2008), death is more than just a biological event where a human being's vital functions shut down. Just as importantly, or even more so, death is a social occurrence that creates far-reaching societal disruptions. The article touches on the issue of brain death whereby an individual is unable to make personal decisions and has to rely on the good wishes of the next of kin to determine their fate. Gawande touches on this issue lightly, avoiding a direct endorsement of assisted death but making the argument that a life in which a person cannot do the things that give their life meaning is not exactly a life worth living. The two texts argue that death has far-reaching consequences for the bereaved, even though Gawande (2014) argues that the significance of death starts during life, especially when the surety of death in a short while becomes clear to a person.

At no stage in life is death as sure as during old age (Wijngaarden, Carlo & Goossensen, 2014). According to the authors, physician-assisted suicide has grown to become such an important debate because old people intent on self-determination who are tired of living and would like to organize their own deaths. The text assesses the morality of giving old people the right to peacefully end their own lives at their terms rather than (im)patiently waiting for the old age diseases that plague them to take their lives. The authors seem to be in tandem with Gawande (2014) in his expressed disdain for the old people's centers where new and improved treatments are constantly tried out on patients to preserve their lives a little longer. The two texts are equally critical about the nursing home system that limits old people to a medic-approved diet, a medic-approved exercise regimen, medic-approved leisure time, etc. all of which serve to make the final days for older people rather dark and miserable.

Reaction to the book Being Mortal by Antul Gawande

Being Mortal, with its provocative premise and anecdotal storytelling, is an infinitely enjoyable read. The author manages to hold the reader's attention as he embarks on a detailed assessment of modern medicine and its contribution to improving the quality of life for billions of people. Moreover, Gawande comments on the proclivity of people to fight to preserve the lives of loved ones even when these actions acerbate their suffering. Being Mortal is a book that is as enlightening as it is enjoyable and what's more, it will open the reader's eyes to new perspectives on life and death.

Being Mortal is a book that unflinchingly discusses death, dying, and old age in ways that often make the reader uncomfortable. The author employs his flair for gently arguing his points without offending, yet at the end of the book, the reader will likely be left with a completely different view of life and death. Nothing in "Being Mortal" is to be taken lightly, because as a practicing senior surgeon himself, Gawande has a good understanding of life and death, and how the two conditions are likely to come about. The book raises highly uncomfortable questions that it doesn't answer, but like a good commentary on social life, it guides the readers towards the author's well-considered opinions on certain matters of life and death. One of these opinions is that the quality of life is more important than the length of it and that it is important to ensure that, where possible, people spend every day of their lives.

I would recommend Being Mortal to future students of this course simply because it makes such a life and death argument. The issues discussed by Gawande are central to the study of sociology because they touch at the very heart of human life and discuss death a more of a social occurrence than a biological eventuality. The new perspective suggested for looking at old age treatments is also very important. I believe that as many people as possible should get to read Being Mortal and draw from the instructive insights developed by the author.


Wijngaarden, Els V., Carlo, Leget & Goossensen, Anne. 2014. Experiences and motivations underlying wishes to die in older people who are tired of living: A research area in its infancy. OMEGA - Journal of Death and Dying, 69(2), 191 - 216, doi: 10.2190/OM.69.2.f

Kellehear, Allan. 2008. Dying as a social relationship: A sociological review of debates on the determination of death. Social Science & Medicine, 66(7), 1533-1544, doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2007.12.023

Corr, Charles A.2015. The death system according to Robert Kastenbaum. OMEGA - Journal of Death and Dying, 70(1), 13 - 25,

Gawande, Atul. 2014. Being Mortal: Medicine and what matters in the end. New York: Metropolitan Books

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