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In Being Mortal, bestselling author Atul Gawande tackles the hardest challenge of his profession: how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending.

Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming birth, injury, and infectious disease from harrowing to manageable. But in the inevitable condition of aging and death, the goals of medicine seem too frequently to run counter to the interest of the human spirit. Nursing homes, preoccupied with safety, pin patients into railed beds and wheelchairs. Hospitals isolate the dying, checking for vital signs long after the goals of cure have become moot. Doctors, committed to extending life, continue to carry out devastating procedures that in the end extend suffering. 

Gawande, a practicing surgeon, addresses his profession’s ultimate limitation, arguing that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. Gawande offers examples of freer, more socially fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and he explores the varieties of hospice care to demonstrate that a person’s last weeks or months may be rich and dignified.

Full of eye-opening research and riveting storytelling, Being Mortal asserts that medicine can comfort and enhance our experience even to the end, providing not only a good life but also a good end.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “American medicine, Being Mortal reminds us, has prepared itself for life but not for death. This is Atul Gawande’s most powerful—and moving—book.”

    Malcolm Gladwell, #1 New York Times bestselling author of David and Goliath

  • “We have come to medicalize aging, frailty, and death, treating them as if they were just one more clinical problem to overcome. However, it is not only medicine that is needed in one’s declining years but life—a life with meaning, a life as rich and full as possible under the circumstances. Being Mortal is not only wise and deeply moving, it is an essential and insightful book for our times, as one would expect from Atul Gawande, one of our finest physician writers.”

    Oliver Sacks, New York Times bestselling author of Hallucinations

  • “A deeply affecting, urgently important book—one not just about dying and the limits of medicine but about living to the last with autonomy, dignity, and joy.”

    Katherine Boo, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist

  • “Beautifully crafted…Being Mortal…is a clear-eyed, informative exploration of what growing old means in the twenty-first century…a book I cannot recommend highly enough. This should be mandatory reading for every American…It provides a useful road map of what we can and should be doing to make the last years of life meaningful.”


  • "Being Mortal left me tearful, angry, and unable to stop talking about it for a week…A surgeon himself, Gawande is eloquent about the inadequacy of medical school in preparing doctors to confront the subject of death with their patients…It is rare to read a book that sparks with so much hard thinking.”


  • “Dr. Gawande’s book is not of the kind that some doctors write, reminding us how grim the fact of death can be. Rather, he shows how patients in the terminal phase of their illness can maintain important qualities of life.”

    Wall Street Journal

  • “Eloquent, moving.”


  • “Illuminating.”

    New York Times

  • “In his compassionate, learned way, Gawande shows all of us—doctors included—how mortality must be faced, with both heart and mind.”

    Amazon.com, editorial review

  • “Atul Gawande’s wise and courageous book raises the questions that none of us wants to think about…Remarkable.”

    Sunday Times (London)

  • “Surgeon Atul Gawande delivers an indictment of the way our health care system fails people with fatal illnesses and those too infirm to live without assistance. Doctors—by training and temperament—are ill prepared to help people face their mortality, he believes, and often cannot even talk about death with their patients…Hospice, Gawande learned, is not about aiding or hastening death but about making each remaining day the best it can be. And the key to caring for the elderly, he believes, is to listen to what people say is most important to them and to help them live by those priorities.”

    Washington Post

  • “Masterful…Essential…For more than a decade, Atul Gawande has explored the fault lines of medicine…combining his years of experience as a surgeon with his gift for fluid, seemingly effortless storytelling…In Being Mortal, he turns his attention to his most important subject yet.”

    Chicago Tribune

  • "Being Mortal, Atul Gawande’s masterful exploration of aging, death, and the medical profession’s mishandling of both, is his best and most personal book yet.”

    Boston Globe

  • “A needed call to action, a cautionary tale of what can go wrong, and often does, when a society fails to engage in a sustained discussion about aging and dying.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “Powerful.”

    New York magazine

  • “Gawande’s book is so impressive that one can believe that it may well [change the medical profession]…May it be widely read and inwardly digested.”

    Financial Times (UK)

  • “Gawande displays the precision of his surgical craft and the compassion of a humanist…in a narrative that often attains the force and beauty of a novel…Only a precious few books have the power to open our eyes while they move us to tears. Atul Gawande has produced such a work. One hopes it is the spark that ignites some revolutionary changes in a field of medicine that ultimately touches each of us.”

    Shelf Awareness

  • “Robert Petkoff delivers this important essay on how traditional medicine falls short in treating the aged. His changes in pacing and intensity do more than keep the narrative interesting; they convey an emotional tone that moves in perfect sync with the pathos throughout the book…Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award.”


  • An Amazon Best Book of the Month for October 2014
  • Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award
  • An AudioFile Best Audiobook of the Year for 2014
  • A Washington Post Top 10 Book of 2014
  • A New York Times Editor’s Choice
  • A 2014 New York Times Notable Book
  • A Library Journal Bestseller
  • Nominated for the 2015 Audie Award for Nonfiction
  • A New York Times Bestseller
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