A chat with Atul Gawande about the craft of writing, mortality, and the organization of geriatric care

Atul Gawande’s best-seller, Being Mortal, has touched a nerve regarding our medical system’s poor handling of aging, life-altering illnesses, hospice, and palliative care. His book raises the question of why the U.S. health system prizes the length of a patient’s life over the quality of that life in a person’s final years. I caught up with Gawande for the Washington Post’s Wonkblog after he delivered a public lecture at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

Copyright Tim Llewellyn
Copyright Tim Llewellyn

He had done many interviews before mine. To tell you the truth, I worried that the interview would re-hash much that had come before.  In the event, we had a nice talk, which was a little different from the interviews he did with journalists who do not operate in medical or public health settings. I hope you enjoy it–more here.

Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect, tnr.com, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.

One thought on “A chat with Atul Gawande about the craft of writing, mortality, and the organization of geriatric care”

  1. Guérir parfois, soulager souvent, consoler toujours, in the lovely phrase attributed to Ambroise Paré, surgeon to several French kings in the 16th century. Paré was a surgeon, not a physician, at a time when the gulf was even more extreme than it is today: he was countercultural in his own day, not just in ours.

    BTW, how is beatification coming along for Dame Cicely Saunders, founder of the modern hospice movement? A rhetorical question, as she was an Anglican, a member of a church which has no formal or informal procedure for certifying saints. Unlike many so labelled, she (along with her Jewish inspiration David Tasma) has been undoubtedly responsible for many miracles, in the form or peaceful and dignified dyings.

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