Being Mortal: An Interview with Dr. Atul Gawande
In his new book, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, Dr. Atul Gawande explores the troublesome intersection of dying and healthcare in America. Faced with their own mortality, people often choose other priorities over endless medical interventions aimed at extending their lives. But only if someone asks.
Modern Healthcare Editor Merrill Goozner recently spoke with Gawande about how end-of-life care and long-term care can be improved through better end-of-life conversations between clinicians and patients. You can watch the video here or read an edited transcript of the Modern Medicine interview with Dr. Gawande.
A short excerpt:
“What kind of life are we fighting for people to have, and does that match the kind of life they want?… We also need time to have these conversations. Currently, we don’t reward doctors or others for taking that time. We don’t see it as a failure when we have patients reaching the end of life who’ve never articulated their goals or never gotten a healthcare proxy. I don’t think we understand what some of those skills are. People who are really good at these conversations are more likely to ask questions than just supply facts. They tend to talk less than half of the time. When I was told that, I suddenly realized that I’m having conversations where I’m doing 90% of the talking. That’s not a very successful conversation.”
Dr. Gawande is a surgeon, writer and public health researcher. He practices general and endocrine surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and is a professor at Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health. He also is executive director of Ariadne Labs, a center for health systems innovation, and chairman of Lifebox, a not-for-profit focused on making surgery safer globally. He has been a staff writer for New Yorker magazine since 1998.