Wednesday, March 11, 2015

On Being Mortal

A wonderful and important book is circulating among my reading friends: Being Mortal by physician Atul Gawande. It is an accounting of medicine's misguided role in end of life conversations, when fixing it is not longer an option and being comfortable and happy becomes most important.

It is a difficult book in that it asks us, especially those of us who are older, to acknowledge that death will come and for most of us it won't be quick or necessarily easy. Parts of us, most likely plural, will break down or stop functioning. We'll have pain, illness, limitations. Doctors will want to keep us alive even we don't have much quality of life anymore, for in the current medical system, quantity is more important than quality.

It thus becomes critical for us to have conversations with those who will most likely care for us (children, friends, siblings) about what we want. When asked what they really want out of life, most of my women friends say they don't know. But I think that's a smokescreen for "I don't want to ask because I can't have it." And of course for some of us this is quite a few years into the future and we may not know, but it's a good idea to start thinking about it.

Some of the things I'll want when I'm old: to have a room all to myself, to have a cat, to be able to feed, dress, and toilet myself. To be able to read. To have silence when I want it. To have access to nature (be outside in it).

What things will you want?

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