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  • Writer's pictureArjun Patel

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End - Part 2

Updated: May 20, 2023

In September of 2022, I recapped the first half of Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End with lengthy paragraphs relating to each chapter. This time, however, I decided to summarize the chapters with shorter paragraphs. I have also started reading a new book: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, which I find fascinating so far!

Chapter 5 begins with Bill Thomas, the nursing home's medical director, who introduced plants, animals, and children into the nursing home to give the residents a purpose. Other assisted living and nursing homes reformed their facilities to allow residents to talk and engage with each other. Lou Sanders moved into a home that organized its residents into single-roomed homes, which made him feel enjoyed and appreciated. Gawande explains that people should be able to choose how they want to live. Being liked by others is one of the few things an older adult wants, and I am excited and happy that Lou got his chance to feel that.

In Chapter 6, Gawande returns to how doctors fail to understand their patient's needs and explains how Sara Monopoli gets diagnosed with lung cancer. She can get many chemotherapy options, but the chemo does not improve her tumors and weakens her immune system. Sara got pneumonia and was rushed to the hospital—the one place she did not want to be when she died. Unfortunately, nobody recognized her desires, and she died in the hospital due to pneumonia. Gawande explains how hospice care is proven to help people live longer than when people undergo intensive and risky procedures and treatments. This shocked me, and I believe that traditional medicine sometimes kills faster than not doing anything.

I will combine Chapters 7 and 8 into one paragraph due to the ongoing dilemma with Gawande's fathers' health. Doctors find a tumor in Gawande's father's spinal cord, and he and Gawande talk about his priorities before death. Edward Benzel, a surgeon, offered surgery, but because of Gawande's father's work, he wanted to keep working for two and a half years. Gawande then talks about Jewel Douglass, who had a tumor pressing on her bowels. She vomited everything she ate, and Gawande performed surgery on her, but he only alleviated the pain as complications could arise if he tried to remove the tumor. Douglass passes away in hospice care with her friends and family with her. Gawande's father explained that he did not want to be on a ventilator or a feeding tube. They proceeded with surgery, which stopped the tumor growth for a while. Eventually, the tumor worsens, and Gawande's father dies after electing hospice care.

In the Epilogue, Gawande remarks that death comes with hard conversations, hopes, fears, and trade-offs. Patients must discuss what they want before dying with their doctor and family. Do they want to die peacefully at home or in the hospital on a ventilator? Gawande finishes by expressing his happiness in assisting people when they come close to death. Until next time! I truly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone interested in medicine.

- AnthroManTalks

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