Don't Curse the Nurse!

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Atul Gawande is a surgeon and author who doesn’t think dying is a problem. He thinks scientific advances have turned aging and dying into medical experiences — and we in the medical world are “alarmingly unprepared for it”.

I was uncertain about reading Being Mortal, the fourth piece of work by Dr. Gawande. Fiction and memoir are genres that comfort my soul and stoke creativity. Turning fifty was my prelude to seeing his book in the OR break room, and I was just wrapping up my two week “ I’m half a century old” pity party. In other words, I was having no problem with the concept of mortality. Still, I was intrigued, so I went out and bought the book

Here’s what I liked about it: Dr. Gawande took three years of research, beautiful passages from famous philosophers, did his own footwork while keeping up with his day job, spent weeks with geriatricians and nursing home reformers, developed a rapport with large groups of seniors in order to get their thoughts, and put it all together in a book that made me feel like he was sitting next to me having a conversation.

Dr. Gawande is clear in expressing that he does not advocate speeding up death. He articulately points out all the things people need from beginning to end that you can’t treat with a prescription, a doctor’s visit, or a surgery. He reminds us at the beginning and again in the middle of the book that medical professionals are trained to concentrate on repair of health, not sustenance of soul. He can say it. He has M.D at the end of his name.

There is a quote in the book that I stopped and read twice. It’s by Bill Thomas, past director of Chase Memorial Nursing home in Upstate New York.

     “…I believe there is a fundamental human need to have a reason to live”

This book didn’t depress me. It made me take my choices more seriously.

Check it out!


Chen Song Ping

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