Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal is a revelation of how to handle death and the discussions around the subject. The book captures the author’s experiences and fears about dying. Reading the book reveals how terrified people become of death and discussions about it, and how people negatively internalize information about death, which makes the topic too complex and big to be discussed. As a cancer surgeon, the author gives inspiration to caregivers and healthcare providers about how to handle death. The key takeaways from the book include understanding what death is, the appropriate ways to talk about it, the relationship about medicine and life, developing the right skills to talk about death, and how nursing homes innovate to prevent sadness.
It is essential to understand death if it is to be discussed and addressed. While death may be regarded as the end to life, there are many ways that death can be defined. Gawande presents death as the cessation of consciousness, which does not often occur while bodily functions shut down. The scientific interpretation of this discussion is that death occurs when oxygen supply to the brain stops. There are many instances when patients fall into a vegetative state. During such cases, the rest of the body ceases to function. However, their brains continue to receive blood from the heart. Such individuals are considered living, and ethical concerns must get addressed if their lives are to be ended.
The most appropriate way to talk about death is to talk about life. Gawande notes that the reason he felt like his actions were not enough is that the options he gave patients were either to explore measures to extend their lives, albeit briefly, or to end it altogether. However, each patient at the end of life stage exhibited a willingness to fight it to the end. Each one needed to live the best way they could. Therefore, he understood that it is never about having a perfect death but providing alternatives for living well within the medical circumstances that one finds themselves.
Another key takeaway is that there is a relationship between medicine and death. Reducing the amount of medication, one receives does not always translate to their recovery or improved health. Often, patients in their end-of-life stages have the alternative of receiving medications that involve painful procedures to extend their lives or resigning to fate and dying slowly with little attempt. Hence, reducing medication may translate to allowing a patient to slide slowly into death, while the painful and rigorous procedures used may lead to their recovery, or extend their lives.
One thing that one must understand is that those who are considered dependent desire to be independent. Hence, nursing homes become some of the saddest places, and so motivation is needed to keep them lively and meaningful. Gawande appreciates the measures taken to improve nursing homes to ensure that they are patient-centric. He notes that nursing homes need to focus on the home aspect as much as they focus on nursing. Patients need to find them homely enough to motivate them to contribute to their nursing and wellbeing.
In conclusion, therefore, the key takeaways from Being Mortal include the need to remain conscious of discussions about death, focusing on life, and the role of medication in addressing death. Understanding the fundamental definition of death is essential in addressing it. Death must be understood as the loss of consciousness, which in science occurs when blood no longer reaches the bran. Medication is vital, and attempts need to be made to ensure that patients are sustained and that there is always hope for them to live. Further, death should be addressed by focusing on life. Discussions should not focus on giving the best death. Instead, patients need the best approach to extend their life.
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