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Atul Gawande Being Mortal: Dying to Live

Updated on July 29, 2016

It's not about living to become the most prosperous person in wealth or materialism, but about living to become the most prosperous person embodying yourself. Atul Gawande's book "Being Mortal" searches through how science tries to fool and escape life's only certainty: mortality, death. Through chapters divided by stages of approaching Death, the audience is revealed of simple things we take for granted and overlook. Hospitals cheat death with medicine, morphine, and artificial organs, but is that doing people justice? Are they really more happy with the effects of surgery or medication, such as paralysis, tubing, or codependency, to prolong their lives for an ephemeral amount of time, rather than use it as encouragement to make the most of their limited remaining time?


And what about nursing homes? Dreadful, life sucking places that steal people away from their families and keep them tied to a bed all day.


Being Mortal explores humans' fear of death, and how medicine has progress to become a tool of cheating it. What we are to also understand is that by cheating death, we are cheating ourselves. One character mentioned, Jewel Douglass, is always very optimistic, energetic, and even through battling fatal bloating and surgeries, she always took the time to put makeup on, do her hair, and maintain her perky appearance; she kept life amidst death. Choosing uncertain surgery to prolong her life, rather than accepting faith, she becomes hindered by tubing and constant pains and nausea. She finds herself too tired to maintain herself like she used to, and apologizes for her embarrassing appearance.

Later, in hospice, she finds herself taking her condition to make the most of her time and visit loved ones and treasure every moment, and she finds herself the happiest she's ever been.

The thing is, she could have been living the same way without surgery, without extra pain, and without a tubing apparatus following her everywhere. Her choice to cheat death by a matter of a few weeks put her in an extensive pain and suffering, not allowing her to fully enjoy the company of her friends and family. She could have also been more mobile, travelled more.

By choosing surgery, she may have gained a few extra weeks, but they were more miserable than had she chosen to make the most of her remaining time from the beginning.

Through Being Mortal's characters like Jewel and Gawande's father, we come to realize that we achieve true happiness by accepting what is and making the most out of today's moment, rather than choosing to save time for tomorrow. We must dedicate our time to our loved ones, and our true interests, as we will be happier than if we focus on stability and how to cheat death.


The medicine that was supposed to be a helping tool, could actually be a harming tool if mistreated.


In your opinion, has medicine?

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