The following article summarizes the original event which is listed below the summary.

Book Notes | ‘Being Mortal’

December 2, 2022, at 2pm

The Fourth Friday Book Club’s selection of Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande, MD, MPH, inspired a spirited and sometimes somber discussion about end-of-life health challenges.

One surprising statistic featured in Being Mortal, first published in 2014, is that “only 3 percent of how long you’ll live … is explained by your parents’ longevity, [whereas] up to 90 percent of how tall you are is explained by your parents’ height.”

Thus, somewhat reassuringly, longevity is not solely a function of genetics, so our choices can make a difference.

Several book club participants shared poignant anecdotes about an older loved one’s medical care (or, in some cases, the lack thereof). Much empathy was expressed not only toward patients and family members, who don’t typically have the clinical expertise to know what outcomes are realistic, but also toward busy, stretched-thin doctors unfamiliar with every frail individual’s capabilities and wishes. Participants agreed on the importance of clear, in-depth communication concerning whatever medical or surgical treatment, if any, might be appropriate to ensure the most meaningful life possible, even—perhaps especially—for those nearing death.

—Mary E. Knatterud, Fourth Friday Book Club member




Fourth Friday Book Club meeting December 2

Fri, Dec 2 2022, 2pm

Meeting to be held via Zoom.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande is the selection for the next meeting of UMRA’s Fourth Friday Book Club, which will be held via Zoom from 2 to 3:30 p.m. on Friday, December 2, to avoid the Thanksgiving holiday weekend at the end of November. Newcomers are welcome.

Gawande is an American surgeon, writer, and public health researcher. He practices general and endocrine surgery at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and is a professor in the Harvard Medical School Department of Health Policy and Management.

Modern medicine has transformed the risks of birth, injury, and infectious disease from harrowing to manageable. But when it comes to the inescapable realities of aging, what medicine can do often runs counter to what it should do.

In numerous examples of research and stories of his patients and his own family, Being Mortal catalogues the issues of aging and death, what Gawande cites as “… an era in which the relationship between patient and doctor is increasingly miscast in retail terms.”

In the words of the late Oliver Sacks, “Being Mortal is not only wise and deeply moving, it is an essential and insightful book for our times, as one would expect from Atul Gawande, one of our finest physician writers.”

Contact Margaret Catambay at [email protected] or Dorothy Marden at [email protected] for information about how to join the meeting on Friday, December 2.

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