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Being Mortal: Medicine and what matters in the end

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This book gives a concrete understanding of how to face mortality and the failure of medicine to understand the basic needs and wants of the people who are at the end of their lives. The central theme revolves around the concept that no matter where this world has evolved in terms of technology, we as human beings must improve our understanding of supporting the people whom we care and especially who are in the later stages of life. Though medical advances aided to prolong the suffering, we lose hope. These reasons matter not just at the end of life or when debility comes but all along the way. Our life has some meaningful purpose and we all are made up of stories. And in stories, endings certainly matter.

As a young generation, we do not comprehend the process of aging and mortality. But as we grow up, we do realize the importance of sharing the precious moments with our loved ones more and caring about the little moments of joys and sorrows with them. This book has distressing stories of people who are at their end of lives suffering due to the natural process of aging and the fact that medicine hasn’t given an appropriate justice to the people who are in the most painful phase of their lives. It is just not about the treatment via catheters or surgery. Rather it is about the happiness which could only be fulfilled by knowing their needs and wants. Medicine always intrigues me and surprises me in ways beyond imagination. Our body is complex to apprehend and the processes are even more complicated to summarize. This is the reason that I chose this book. It is the book which opened up my knowledge about how to encounter death and gave me the meaningful purpose of doing something better for such people.

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I would like to share a personal story which I tried to relate while reading this book.

I have my grandmother aged 68 years who has not been keeping well for a few months. She underwent a knee replacement surgery on both of her knees and that was the time I realized the role of palliative care. She was not able to walk or eat properly for more than a month. With this, she also experienced insomnia, dizziness, loss of taste and much more. The treatment, fortunately, went well. But the side effects still persisted for a very long time. One fine day to help my grandparents out, we all family members decided to stay with them for a couple of days. She was more than happy to see us and started walking with so much of exuberance in her step. Medicine could not do wonders what a simple act of care could. And I am certainly sure that this wouldn’t be possible if they would have been transferred to old age homes. The concept of nursing homes assisted living or old age homes seems misguided to me as they do not make the person feel at home. As far as I feel, homely environment and people surrounding us matter when one feels sick. Treating illness does not serve the end purpose. Instead of understanding one’s desires in their end of lives is critically important.

According to my understanding, Public Health means serving the community in whole through health education, prevention, and treatment of their suffering through continuous teamwork.

This book made me further understand that there is an urgent need of transparency for the public and formulation of healthcare programs which could sustain a healthier life particularly for people in old age. As stated in the book, a number of geriatric doctors took a step back from treating the old aged people because there were not enough funds and sponsors to support their treatment. This shook me and would like to definitely work for this matter.

Death is inevitable in its true sense. Our bodies are going to perish anyway. Medicine instead must have the competence to enable the whole well-being of the person.

This book is not just another book to read but something paramount to contemplate and act on to serve the humanity. What matters in our life is our dreams, fears, and hopes. Without any doubt, in my mind, I would definitely recommend this book to every person who cares about their own self and the people around them. In the end, we all are Mortals.


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