27 November 2014, The Tablet

Being Mortal: illness, medicine and what matters in the end

by Atul Gawande, reviewed by James Le Fanu

Last things

“After 70 years,” wrote Robert Burton in The Anatomy of Melancholy, “all is trouble and sorrow.” But not any more. Rather, most of us can reasonably anticipate an extra decade at least, digging the garden, travelling to exotic places and playing with the grandchildren. The many medical advances of recent years have, while making that possible, nonetheless proved to be a mixed blessing. They may ensure we live longer than ever only for many of us to be confined by our failing minds and frail limbs to regimented institutionalised care or robbed of a dignified finale by futile and onerous attempts to postpone the inevitable. “Lacking a coherent view of how people might live successfully all the way to the very end,” writes Atul Gawande, “we have allo
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