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Being Mortal

Illness, Medicine and What Matters in the End
Narrated by: Robert Petkoff
Length: 9 hrs and 3 mins
5 out of 5 stars (22 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

For most of human history, death was a common, ever-present possibility. It didn't matter whether you were five or fifty - every day was a roll of the dice. But now, as medical advances push the boundaries of survival further each year, we have become increasingly detached from the reality of being mortal. 

So here is an audiobook about the modern experience of mortality - about what it's like to get old and die, how medicine has changed this and how it hasn't, where our ideas about death have gone wrong. With his trademark mix of perceptiveness and sensitivity, Atul Gawande outlines a story that crosses the globe, as he examines his experiences as a surgeon and those of his patients and family, and learns to accept the limits of what he can do.  

Never before has aging been such an important topic. The systems that we have put in place to manage our mortality are manifestly failing; but, as Gawande reveals, it doesn't have to be this way. The ultimate goal, after all, is not a good death, but a good life - all the way to the very end. 

Published in partnership with the Wellcome Collection. 

Wellcome Collection:

Wellcome Collection is a free museum and library that aims to challenge how we think and feel about health. Inspired by the medical objects and curiosities collected by Henry Wellcome, it connects science, medicine, life and art. Wellcome Collection exhibitions, events and books explore a diverse range of subjects, including consciousness, forensic medicine, emotions, sexology, identity and death.  

Wellcome Collection is part of Wellcome, a global charitable foundation that exists to improve health for everyone by helping great ideas to thrive, funding over 14,000 researchers and projects in more than 70 countries. 

©2019 Atul Gawande (P)2014 Macmillan Audio

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Average Customer Ratings

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Fantastic book

Everyone has their thoughts on dying, and as it is something we will all face. This is a book we should all read!

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Comfort in care...

A must read for clinicians, carers and layman alike. A view of quality of life and dignity of end of life... Our mortality, approach to care and the respect that palliative care deserves.

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Thought provoking about death, aging and medicine

An honest and thought provoking exploration of aging, dying and what means most to us in the end. Palliative care is not just a growing medical need but an inevitable aspect of our modern lives.

I am a doctor myself and I believe that this is a must read for all medical practitioners. The author very earnestly tries to examine truths that most doctors are too uncomfortable to acknowledge: the limits of modern medicine, the certainty of death and difficult conversations that we need to be having with our patients and loved ones.

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  • Mindaugas
  • 02-28-19

Simple, yet brilliant

The author tries to pass the idea that instead of trying to exceed ones life employing any medical service necessary, we shall focus on the quality of the time left and help people to get the best of their days/weeks/months remaining.
However, the main take for me from this book are these simple truths:
- Perspective can change everything (your goals, ambition, hapiness is totally different if you have a month to live vs 20 years to go);
- listen to what my parents/loved oned want when it comes to the end of life journey (be it a mortal disease or an old age);
- I am not immortal, I should not forget that :)
- and finally - there’s a business opportunity in my country to expand assisted living concept + help the old people.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Merrill
  • 11-02-19

A Must Read

This book's importance cannot be overstated.
Knowing how to care for our aging community is becoming a more and more important topic of conversation. Greater numbers of people are aging together and consequently dying together, as a society we need to ask the hard questions that make that transition easier for everyone. This book discusses how and why it is vital to all our wellbeing, and does so in such a way that one's left wondering how we've got it so wrong for so long.

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  • Sheila
  • 10-05-19

Essential reading for health professionals everywhere.

Excellent thought provoking book. Written with sensitivity, compassion and wisdom. The writer, a doctor looks beyond ‘keeping alive at all costs’ and role of doctors as instructors rather than fellow travellers.
I hope that someone with the skill of Gawande will be around for me when it’s time to move on. Should be read with Sue Black’s book ‘All That Remains’. Now to read something lighter!

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  • Fariel Rahman
  • 09-25-19

Beautifully written

Beautiful written story narrated well. Elegantly crafts the story of how precious life, a good life can be honoured with a good death as defined by each person. Asks us to question who should be making these decisions at the end of a life and how we don’t quite have it right yet!

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 09-15-19

A must for any physician and healthcare profession

It talks eloquently about how we view aging frailty and terminal illness as a profession and as society.

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  • caroline kerr
  • 08-12-19

worth reading

Hard won knowledge given with clarity.
Changed my attitude and actions immediately for the better.

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  • QIU
  • 03-17-19

a really good book on the important topic

plenty of stories that will make you think, aging with dignity is an important topic, how do we end our life

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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-14-19

thought provoking and intoxicating in essence

an amazing book, with an intoxicating storyline, emotional and captivating all at once, a must read for anyone in the health care industry for a fresh perspective on aging and informing the way we care for others in the clinical setting

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  • Philip
  • 08-21-19

Totally Transformative

Gawande takes one of the most challenging taboos of our time and, using insight, the experiences of others who are dying or have died, and his experience as a son whose father died, asks us to think differently about dying. In the 21st century we think we have conquered so much with technology that we can conquer death and live forever. But Gawande’s insightful narrative gets us to think anew about living well and dying without going down kicking and screaming. The author exhorts us to focus on the person who is dying—which will one day be us—and see how we can make the inevitable as good an experience as possible, remembering that a person’s death, importantly, leaves the living behind with their memories and experiences. I found this book to be totally transformative. Being Mortal should be read by every health professional and anyone working with older people or those dying from a life limiting disease.

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  • Kathryn Townley
  • 07-16-19

A must-read

A thoughtful and moving book on how we approach death, that is ultimately uplifting and empowering. I am so grateful this was recommended to me.

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  • Emma
  • 06-08-19

Eye opening

This book had made me think about how I might live my final days, should I be lucky enough to be able to plan for this . Really thought provoking - the narration was excellent.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-25-19

From a non-medic who has recently lost someone...

THANK YOU for this book. This book was eye-opening, heart-wrenching and made me want to learn more about the state of geriatric and palliative care in my own country (New Zealand). It also made me realise the conversations that need to be had with some of my family members about what their wishes are. Death is such a taboo subject for something that is so human and happens to literally every single one of us... thank you for talking about the challenges that professionals face, too - I truly didn't realise the doctors also struggle with confronting the harsh reality of impending death.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-21-19

Being Mortal

What a fantastic book for everyone! As a Registered Nurse working in Aged Care I have already (only just) started implementing the pot plant for dementia patients. It’s just a fantastic insight into all aspects of medicine and a must read for all people working in the medical field.
My brother in law who is anaesthetist recommended the book to me after he read it.

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  • Albert J. Malki
  • 03-11-19

uninteresting book

I tried to persevere even though I found the content quite monotonous, at the 4th chapter I gave up

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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-10-19

Everyone should read this book

This is a very well written book. Everyone should read this to understand and be empathetic to their parents, older family or friends situation. Great book.