Being Mortal, Atul Gawande’s acclaimed book, subtitled Medicine and What Matters in the End, helps illuminate those dark corners where fears of death lurk. While medicine has made great life-saving strides over the past few decades, we humans still have a 100% mortality rate. There is no cure for old age.
With only 30% of adults preparing advance medical directives, it’s so much harder to talk about end-of-life issues when no one’s discussing their wishes about quality and quantity of life related to medical treatment.
In the epilogue of Being Mortal, Gawande shares these four illuminating questions that a palliative care nurse shared with him. From the book:
Whenever serious sickness or injury strikes and your body or mind breaks down, the vital questions are the same:
- What is your understanding of the situation and its potential outcomes?
- What are your fears and what are your hopes?
- What are the trade-offs you are willing to make and not willing to make?
- What is the course of action that best serves this understanding?
Take these questions with you whenever you are meeting with a doctor about your own or a loved one’s medical condition, particularly when looking at a serious diagnosis. They can help you make the most of the time you have, and hopefully, avoid painful, futile treatments.