How Humane is our “Care” for the Elderly?: A Review of “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande

This book gets you thinking about the purposes of nursing homes, the varieties in meaning of the term “assisted living,” hospice care, and especially about how the way we treat the elderly is dominated by institutionalized medicine. The author questions whether medicine’s goal of merely keeping elderly people “safe” in nursing homes is in conflict with the goal of the elderly themselves.

    For Atul Gawande what the elderly most want is, so far as possible, to remain the authors of their own lives. They want to continue enjoying their purposes in life while in nursing homes and not just vegetate there while being kept “safe”. The author also doubts how caring it is (and how needlessly expensive as well) to subject patients toward the end of life to drastic treatments that have little chance of saving their lives.

    All in all this is a thought-provoking book, though in the interest of criticizing current medical practices, it may underestimate how caring the intentions behind those practices can often be.

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