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  • Writer's pictureLisa Cox

Being Mortal: What is a good life, and a good death?

Our first reading recommendation for The Doula Files Bookshelf is Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. In this engaging book, Gawande, a medical doctor, addresses the questions raised by aging and terminal illness, aided by modern medicine- and how modern medicine neglects the more nuanced questions of going beyond managing symptoms and creating a better end of life experience.


Gawande argues that while we have become better able to manage aging and illness with the medical model, the compassion and thought required in making decisions to extend quality, not just quantity (length) of life are lacking in this model. Through a series of stories with real characters, including his own family, the author takes the reader on a journey to address the issue of bringing quality into the end-of-life equation, beginning with "The Independent Self" and "Things Fall Apart," a look at who we are as independent people with years behind us and when symptoms of physical breakdown appear on their course, through "Courage," in which the question is addresses of how to truly persist through the trials of the final days or moments, without compromising who one is or ones wishes. Sandwiched between these chapters are "Dependence," "Assistance," "A Better Life," "Letting Go," and "Hard Conversations," each chapter covering questions and possibilities in the progression through aging or terminal illness to the final transition.


I recommend this book highly for those who are witnessing or experiencing the beginning stages of this major life transition, or those who are simply interested in the subject of dying and how to help themselves or others make the best of that experience.


Unfortunately, in Wyoming we have scant access to resources such as this in our public libraries; however, the book is widely available online.



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