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Being Mortal Summary – Atul Gawande

Arthur Worsley
by Arthur Worsley
M.A. Psychology, Oxford. McKinsey Alum. Founder & Editor at TAoL.
2 MINUTE READ
Being Mortal (2014)
Medicine and What Matters in the End
by Atul Gawande
TAoL Rating: Book Rating: 5/5 5.0
Being Mortal is an uncomfortable yet enlightening exploration of how treating terminal disease (especially linked to ageing) as a purely extend-life-at-all-costs medical problem is destroying the final moments of our lives - by surgeon and best selling author, Atul Gawande. (282 pages)

Note: This Being Mortal summary is part of an ongoing project to summarise the Best Health Books of all time.

Being Mortal Review

Have you ever really thought about dying?

I hadn’t – until I read Being Mortal.

And then what I read scared the crap out of me.

Partly by making me realise how unready I was for decisions I could easily face tomorrow.

But mostly in a good way.

Because once you know what death looks like you can do something about it.

When you know there are options you can choose.

My verdict? Read this book.

It’ll shock you and worry you and enlighten you.

But whether it’s yours or a loved one’s you’re dealing with, it’ll help make things better in the end.

Being Mortal Summary

The bulk of Dr. Gawande’s Being Mortal is taken up with well-written, engaging case studies while the breakdown of his arguments is quite simple:

Medicine has become much better at treating disease.

As a result, whether from old-age or sickness, more and more of us are dying gradually instead of losing our lives in one swoop.

This slow decline comes with gradually decreasing independence (we rely on more people to help us with more things).

The problem, until recently, is that our choices for getting help have been limited.

The homes and hospitals that have stepped in are modelled on big medical institutions, prioritising treatment and safety and convenience over autonomy and meaning and wellness.

As a result, we too often trade end-of-life quality for end-of-life quantity. Despite the second being worthless without the first.

Solution? New ways of thinking – as governments, as institutions and individuals.

We need policies that encourage geriatric training and awareness and hospice.

We need homes, hospitals and carers that champion autonomy and meaning and options that don’t involve spending our last days on moon-shot treatments or in ICUs (intensive care units).

We need hard, end-of life conversations that help all involved understand:

  1. What is happening and with what potential outcomes?
  2. What are our hopes and our fears?
  3. What trade offs are we willing and not willing to make? and
  4. What course of action best serves this understanding?

We need the courage to follow through on those decisions.

The good news? These things ARE happening.

And where that’s the case the data in their favour is unequivocal.

But they’re not happening widely enough.

Mostly because too many of us aren’t hearing or thinking about them until it’s too late.

Which leaves too many of us dying as we shouldn’t, and too few of us dying as we could.

Being Mortal Contents

There are 8 main chapters in Being Mortal:

  1. The Independent Self
  2. Things Fall Apart
  3. Dependence
  4. Assistance
  5. A Better Life
  6. Letting Go
  7. Hard Conversations
  8. Courage

Click here to look inside the book.

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Read More: 5 Books Like Being Mortal

Enjoyed this Being Mortal summary? You might enjoy the rest of the books on these lists of the Best Health Books of all time.

And in the meantime...

Here are 5 top books like Being Mortal...

Books Like Being Mortal: Why We Sleep
1. Why We Sleep - Matthew Walker (FREE Summary)
Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams
Why We Sleep is a fascinating and accessible guide to what sleep is, why sleep matters and how to optimise your sleep habits to live longer, feel happier and set your life up for success - by sleep scientist and best-selling author, Matthew Walker.
Published 2017 // 368 pages // Rated 4.4 over 125,800 reviews on Goodreads
Books Like Being Mortal: How Not to Die
2. How Not to Die - Michael Greger (FREE Summary)
Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease
How Not to Die is a deeply researched and compelling primer on the promise and importance of whole food plant-based nutrition in preventing and reversing disease - by medical doctor and nutrition expert, Michael Greger.
Published 2015 // 576 pages // Rated 4.4 over 31,000 reviews on Goodreads
Books Like Being Mortal: Born to Run
3. Born to Run - Christopher McDougall (FREE Summary)
A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
Born to Run takes takes running back to its roots in this critically acclaimed analysis of evolution, injury and recovery that is filled with compelling insights, great story telling and practical tips - by best-selling author and journalist, Christopher McDougall.
Published 2009 // 287 pages // Rated 4.3 over 186,300 reviews on Goodreads
Books Like Being Mortal: The Body
4. The Body - Bill Bryson (FREE Summary)
A Guide for Occupants
The Body is a fantastically-written and awe-inspiring 23-chapter tour through the 30 trillion cells that (literally) make you who you are - by best-selling author, Bill Bryson.
Published 2019 // 450 pages // Rated 4.3 over 58,200 reviews on Goodreads
Books Like Being Mortal: The Obesity Code
5. The Obesity Code - Jason Fung (FREE Summary)
Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss
The Obesity Code gives an amazing look at how the body uses food to create the perfect conditions for obesity and how to disrupt the cycle to create a healthier future - by kidney disease specialist, best-selling author and MD, Jason Fung.
Published 2016 // 328 pages // Rated 4.4 over 24,200 reviews on Goodreads

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Arthur Worsley
I founded TAoL to discover and share the best wisdom on how to live long and prosper. Before that I studied Psychology, Philosophy & Physiology at Oxford and consulted at McKinsey. Still curious? Learn more or take my FREE productivity quiz.

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