The nature of death is such that it will fling every one of us into the unknown. We fear the mystery as also the suffering that often precedes it. This book speaks frankly about how individuals, society and the medical profession deal with the process of aging and death. In describing the choices available in the final stages of one’s life and in accepting the fact that doctors are nowhere near understanding the true nature of the dying process, Gawande has written a beautiful book.
The first few chapters are a walking tour through the tribulations of growing old. They tell how societies have dealt with the terminal stages of life in the last 100 years. Advances in medicine, nutritional knowledge and improved livelihood have made it possible for many westerners to live to be 90 or more. Most Americans choose to live independently after retirement for as long as they can and thus hang on to their freedom. If illness or age-related disabilities become serious enough, they opt to get home-help, day-care nursing, or other such ‘assisted living’ measures. The last thing they want is hospital care, and choose it only very reluctantly, because as medicine becomes more technical, it also loses the emotional intelligence that is called for in helping a patient not just to prolong life but retain a quality to that life.