Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal

In Mahabharata, in Yakha Prashna episode, to the question as to the most surprising thing, Yudhisthtra answers that it is people living as though they are immortal even when they see death everyday. And, there is a Thamizh poem from Thirumoolar which also echoes the same sentiment: “The entire village — got together and wept loud; stopped using the name and referred to “dead body”, took the body to the burial ground and  burnt it there; took a dip in the water and forgot it”.

Atul Gawande’s meditation on being mortal is equally profound and deeply philosophical and at the core an attempt to address some questions of medical ethics. It asks hard questions about the way modern medicine is being practised — specifically, whether we can prolong life without worrying about the quality of life or without paying heed to the wishes of patients themselves. For a book that discusses death and pain on almost every page, it is a surprisingly affirmative and positive book. With his wonderful prose and great writing, Gawande joins Sacks and Ramachandran as one among the must-read medical writers and Being Mortal is a must-read book. Strongly recommended.

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