Atul Gawande: Being Mortal Documentary


Mortality.

No doubt, not an easy topic to discuss.

And I know this from having discussed it with my mother who passed away a little over two years ago.

Yet, I’ve never been one to shy away from discussing things that are difficult and might make me feel uncomfortable because I’d rather just feel whatever I’m going to feel and go through it instead of avoiding my fears.

My mother and I had some very honest conversations before she died. We talked about what death might feel like, we talked about her fear of experiencing pain as she was dying, we talked about dying without regrets, we talked about her spiritual beliefs, and we also talked about her memorial service. We had honest and emotional discussions. But do you know what? It allowed the both of us to feel relieved in having these discussions because we knew that the end was coming so it made it easier to accept and walk through. And in doing so, a different kind of healing occurred.

The reason I’m sharing this post today is because I think it's even harder for many doctors to have end-of-life discussions. Doctors are trained to fix their patients; therefore death is something they find difficult to talk about because to them it means they may have failed in some way. They would rather keep trying every attempt to save a patient’s life instead of realizing that at some point there is nothing more that medicine and hope can possibly do. And I think that’s extremely challenging for them to accept.

However, last week I watched a riveting and deeply affecting documentary about how one doctor, Atul Gawande, is trying to change the way the medical field struggles to accept their limitations and the deaths of their patients. In the documentary, Gawande takes us behind closed doors to witness intimate end-of-life conversations among doctors, patients and their families. And I feel it’s a documentary that everyone should watch because there will come a time when we all have to face this.

Again, I know that mortality is not an easy topic to discuss or accept, but it's important that it be aired because it's inevitable. And I greatly respect and applaud Dr. Gawande for admitting his fears and struggles by examining these things and bringing them to light in this honest, compassionate and breathtaking documentary.

Here is an excerpt from "Being Mortal."



If you have some time this weekend, feel free to view the complete documentary on PBS. It's 55-minutes long, but trust me, it is so worth it because you will be altered.


Have a wonderful weekend everyone!
X


36 comments

  1. Ron, what an honest and powerful post! I've seen the book Being Mortal in the bookstore several times and was drawn to pick it up because of the title. So was this documentary made from the book? You're right, mortality is something we don't like to think about or even discuss. I think it's beautiful that you and your mother talked openly before she passed. And as hard as it must have been, I'm sure it brought a sense of peace for you both. Just from the excerpt you shared I know this will be a documentary I will watch, so thank you for sharing the link.

    Have a wonderful weekend, Ron x

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  2. Ron, I appreciate you sharing this raw and honest post because I think it's a vitally important topic that should to be discussed. And not only between families but also between doctors and their patients and how we handle the conversations with those close to the end of their lives. It's one thing to try medical options, but if they are not giving a quality life then I think there comes a time when they need to stop so that someone can live the rest of their life in peace and preparing. This happened with my own father. He had enough. I look forward to watching this documentary this weekend. Thank you!

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  3. Hola Denise!

    I've seen the book in stores too and was always curious. However, it wasn't until I watched the documentary did I really know what it was about. And yes, the documentary is based on the book. It's a very honest and emotional documentary, but it's one that will deeply touch you.

    Thanks so much for stopping by and have a wonderful weekend!
    X

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  4. Hello Elaine!

    "And not only between families but also between doctors and their patients and how we handle the conversations with those close to the end of their lives. It's one thing to try medical options, but if they are not giving a quality life then I think there comes a time when they need to stop so that someone can live the rest of their life in peace and preparing."


    I agree. And I so respect and applaud Dr. Gawande for bringing this to light and sharing his experience. I knew nothing about him before I saw this documentary, so I look forward to checking out his other books.



    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend. Have a great weekend!
    X

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  5. "And in doing so, a different kind of healing occurred." I like how you said that, Ron, because I do believe a healing can occur even through death. What you said about many doctors is true, they are taught to fix their patient's so death is something thing that is challenging for them to discuss. And I think this documentary may be something that will change their way of dealing with it and talking about it with their patients. I look forward to watching the complete documentary.


    Powerful and thought provoking post, dude. Thanks!

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  6. My dear friend, you have hit on a topic close to my heart. As you know I am a member of the WI (Women's Institute) and this is one of the subjects they encourage people to talk about. I freely discuss it at home and outside, it's neither morbid nor is it painful; in fact I have gone as far as to tell the doctor I don't want saving! Not in those words, of course, but I have declared that I do NOT want to be resuscitated when my time comes. Jeez, I do NOT want to be on one of those machines and someone has to make the decision to pull the plug. Another angle on the subject over here are death cafes were people go to discuss the matter of death over a cup of coffee. From what I hear it has had powerful impact on the way death is thought of.

    There really is nothing to be scared of. We all have to go and accepting it now is a good way to ease one's feelings. Be prepared, that's what I say. Make your will, plan the funeral, let your folks know how you feel and what you want.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/the-death-cafe-movement-tea-and-mortality-8082399.html

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  7. Rob LenihanMarch 06, 2015

    God, Ron, this is powerful. I am the master of avoidance when it comes to this topic (see--I can't even say it!), but you quite right. All things really must pass and we can't pretend that's not going to happen.


    I was just thinking this morning how it seemed that one minute i was riding around on my father's shoulders and the next minute I was helping him get dressed. I'll make sure to watch this program and I do thank you for point it out to us.


    Have a great weekend, buddy, and live!

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  8. Ron, I'm going to make time to view at least some of this documentary -- thank you for pointing it out. None of us is getting younger, my friend, and those of us with elderly loved ones know this intimately.

    You're blessed your mom was realistic and shared her thoughts about mortality with you. My own mom refuses to discuss it, even to the point of walking away. I think she thinks if we talk about it, we'll hasten her demise, when of course that's ridiculous! As it is, she's leaving every decision to my sis and me (who sometimes don't get along). I, on the other hand, have "taken care of business" so my son won't have to worry. It's hard enough grieving, without adding major decisions to the mix.

    Thanks for a touching, honest post, dear, and have a super weekend!

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  9. This post hit me hard today. Entrepreneur just had another CT scan to see if the spots on his lungs and thyroid have grown or spread. Results on Monday and I'm back to dreading what the future might hold. I know these conversations are necessary and I pray when the time comes (later rather than sooner) that I will be strong enough to have it.

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  10. Thanks for sharing this. It is a most difficult subject for many. Seems easier for the dying to have this conversation than the living as we have a harder time accepting the situation. At least for me, I found it difficult as my father in law, brother, and father discussed their impending deaths. I knew they needed to say these things. I guess I didn't want to face the inevitable and was afraid of saying the wrong thing. Though I'm glad we were able to talk about it, I wish I'd been more willing to speak and listen without emotion taking over.

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  11. Looks like a very interesting documentary.
    I'm so glad you were able to have that special time with your mom. I know it wasn't always easy, but, her grace and your kindness and humor must have been a nice combination to share that deep time together. Connecting like that is very beautiful. {{{HUGS}}}
    I do tend to want to block out subjects like this at times... but, it's important to at least try in between times of fear or doubt to work on things like this.
    This doctor is doing a great service for patients and peers with this!


    Have a great weekend, Ron. Yay, the snow is melting!

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  12. Geraldine H.March 06, 2015

    I agree with Denise, this is an honest and powerful post Ron.


    Leaving this planet with few regrets is on the top of my list, in terms of dying peacefully. So many people regret so many things that they did or didn't do....of course, all this is a work in progress and happily, if we live a healthy, thoughtful life, we usually are given the time to make amends, go back for a "second chance" to make things right or do something we've always dreamed of but have put off, year after year.


    That's why I wrote: Laughing AT the Grim Reaper! Gems of Wisdom for Aging Well. It was a topic on my mind (and at that point when I began writing) NOT in a good way. Writing that book was so helpful for me and happily it seems the book in turn has helped others, grappling with their mortality.


    This doctor sounds like an amazing man. Thanks for sharing this video too.


    Have a wonderful weekend! G Sunshine there in Philly??? ;-)

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  13. Mark PetruskaMarch 06, 2015

    Fascinating. I have a strong interest in death and mortality - because I believe that the act of dying is only the beginning. And I don't have a religious bone in my body. Conundrum much? Thanks for sharing this, Ron. I'll try to check it out sometime soon. Have yourself a great weekend!

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  14. Ron, I would like to chime in with many of your readers and say fascinating, powerful and honest post! I think we all tend to avoid this topic because it's one that both frightens us and seems too far into the future to think about. I know from what you've shared about your mother's illness to the time of her death, you and she spoke openly to each other and I think that's pretty amazing. And I'm sure, as hard as it must have been, you both achieved a great deal of peace and acceptance instead of waiting until the very end.


    I will definitely watching this documentary sometime this weekend, Ron. It's sounds touching and moving. Have a great weekend!

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  15. Hey there Matt!

    "..because I do believe a healing can occur even through death."

    I do too. Healing doesn't always mean a "physical" healing, it can also pertain to a healing of the "soul" even though a physical healing may never occur. It's coming to peace.

    " And I think this documentary may be something that will change their way of dealing with it and talking about it with their patients."



    Yes, I think so too, which is why I respect Dr. Gawande so much for having the courage to put this out there; allowing other doctors (and everyone) to alter their way of thinking about and accepting death and mortality.


    I think you'll find this documentary such an eye-opener.


    Thanks so much for stopping by, buddy. Have a most excellent weekend!
    x

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  16. "Another angle on the subject over here are death cafes were people go to discuss the matter of death over a cup of coffee. From what I hear it has had powerful impact on the way death is thought of."

    Valerie, my friend, I cannot THANK YOU ENOUGH for sharing that link to the article. And what an amazing article it was! I love the idea of cafes where people can openly talking about dying. What a brilliant and powerful concept. And I was happy to read that they even opened one here in America.

    "There really is nothing to be scared of. We all have to go and accepting it now is a good way to ease one's feelings. Be prepared, that's what I say. Make your will, plan the funeral, let your folks know how you feel and what you want."



    I agree with every word you said! And AMEN!


    Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing on this topic, dear lady. Really appreciate it! Have a lovely weekend.


    X to you and Joe!

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  17. Hey there Rob!

    "All things really must pass and we can't pretend that's not going to happen."

    You are so right. My mother and father were very different in the way they approached their deaths. My mother talked very openly. However, my father was not one to discuss it. Ever. But he taught me a very important lesson about that. You can't avoid death by not talking about it. It was much harder for him to accept his mortality than my mother, so it made it harder for those of us around him because we couldn't talk about it. My father only accepted his death in the last few hours of his life.

    "I was just thinking this morning how it seemed that one minute i was riding around on my father's shoulders and the next minute I was helping him get dressed."



    Yes, I know how you feel because I feel the same way. It seems that the parent/child roles switch.


    Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing on this topic, buddy! You've added much. Have a super weekend!
    X

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  18. Hello there Debbie!

    You are so welcome, my friend. After seeing this documentary, I knew I needed to share it on my blog.

    " None of us is getting younger, my friend, and those of us with elderly loved ones know this intimately."

    Yes, I know exactly what you mean.

    "My own mom refuses to discuss it, even to the point of walking away. I think she thinks if we talk about it, we'll hasten her demise, when of course that's ridiculous!"

    My father was the same way. He and my mother were very different in how they accepted their deaths. Like your mother, my father never wanted to discuss it. At all. So it made it harder for those of us around him because we were not able to talk about it and walk through the acceptance and grieving process. My father only accepted his death in the last few hours of his life.

    " I, on the other hand, have "taken care of business" so my son won't have to worry. It's hard enough grieving, without adding major decisions to the mix."



    Your mother is very blessed in having you as her daughter.


    (((((((((((((( YOU )))))))))))))))


    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend. Have a super weekend!


    X

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  19. Lisa, I was so thinking of you when I watched this documentary and hoped that by sharing it on my blog it wouldn't upset you because I know what you're going through right now. But then I thought, if you should decide to watch the documentary, it may help and support you in some way.

    " I know these conversations are necessary and I pray when the time comes (later rather than sooner) that I will be strong enough to have it."



    Keep the faith, my friend. And know that you WILL be strong enough to have these conversations when and if that time comes.


    And also know that you and Entrepreneur are always in my thoughts and prayers. I will be thinking of you on Monday.


    Thank you so much for stopping by. Have a peaceful weekend.

    X

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  20. Hey there Suzi!

    "Seems easier for the dying to have this conversation than the living as we have a harder time accepting the situation."

    Yes, you're right, it can be.

    "I knew they needed to say these things. I guess I didn't want to face the inevitable and was afraid of saying the wrong thing. Though I'm glad we were able to talk about it, I wish I'd been more willing to speak and listen without emotion taking over."



    Trust me, is was VERY emotional for me as well so I know how you felt. But I think that even by being emotional, we still allowed us (and them) to move through it because grieving is part of the process.


    Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing on this topic, my friend. You've added much.


    Have a great weekend!
    X

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  21. Hey there Mary!

    "I'm so glad you were able to have that special time with your mom. I know it wasn't always easy, but, her grace and your kindness and humor must have been a nice combination to share that deep time together. Connecting like that is very beautiful. {{{HUGS}}}"

    Thank you for your sweet and kind words, my friend. I felt very blessed that my mother was so willing to speak openly about what she was going through because it allowed me to walk through it with her and process all the feelings and emotions we both had.

    "This doctor is doing a great service for patients and peers with this!"



    I totally agree! And I so respect and applaud him for it!


    Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing on this post. You've added much!


    Have a super weekend!
    X


    Yup, the snow is melting here as well.

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  22. "Leaving this planet with few regrets is on the top of my list, in terms of dying peacefully. So many people regret so many things that they did or didn't do....of course, all this is a work in progress and happily, if we live a healthy, thoughtful life, we usually are given the time to make amends, go back for a "second chance" to make things right or do something we've always dreamed of but have put off, year after year."

    Geraldine, I love what you shared there because you nailed it. Instead of worrying about our mortality, it should spur us into realizing that our time is brief here and that we should do all the things we want to do in the NOW. And also, say what we want to say to those whom we love.

    And yes, your book is a great lesson in mortality and living life to the fullest.

    "This doctor sounds like an amazing man. Thanks for sharing this video too."



    I was SO impressed by this man and his documentary!


    Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing on this topic, my friend. You've added much! Have a super weekend!
    X


    P.S. Yes, we got lots of sunshine today. It's very cold after snowing all day yesterday, but I hear that the temps. are going up the next few days.

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  23. "I have a strong interest in death and mortality - because I believe that the act of dying is only the beginning. And I don't have a religious bone in my body."


    Yes, I know you do, Mark, and I think that's AWESOME! Like you, I'm not a religious person, but I do believe in a Higher Power and the hereafter, and that death does not mean final.


    I think you would REALLY like this documentary!


    Thanks so much for stopping by, buddy, and sharing on this topic. You've added much!


    Have a grrrrrrrreat weekend!


    X to you and Tara

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  24. Hey ho Robert!

    Watching this documentary got me thinking and feeling about a lot of things, so I felt the need to share it on my blog. I was so impacted by this documentary and thought that what Dr. Gawande is doing is very important. And not only for the medical community, but also for our thoughts and feelings about mortality.

    "And I'm sure, as hard as it must have been, you both achieved a great deal of peace and acceptance instead of waiting until the very end."



    I feel very blessed to have had a mother who openly and honestly talked about her illness and death because it allowed me to move through the process with her, thus, making it easier to accept. She taught me a lot through her death.


    Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing on this topic, buddy. You're added much. Have a fabuloso weekend!
    X

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  25. Ron, I wanted to stop back to let you know that my husband and I watched the documentary last night and were deeply moved. What we found especially touching was the heartbreaking honesty in which it was delivered, mixed with such compassion and sensitivity. The ending left us speechless. I am very impressed with Dr. Gawande for bringing this topic out of the closet. Thank you for sharing, Ron.

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  26. I will definitely watch that. I love Atul Gawande's writing in the New Yorker. And since a specialty area of mien is people with terminal illness, I've had many, many discussions with people about their imminent deaths. It's such an important conversation to have and no one gets to escape dying.

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  27. Thanks for posting thing Ron. I wish my mother and I could have had these conversations before she died. Unfortunately, she showed absolutely zero emotion. I want to see the entire documentation and see how to make it a better and more honest experience for my family. Thanks again!

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  28. Hi Elaine! Thanks so much for stopping back to let you know that you watched the documentary.

    "What we found especially touching was the heartbreaking honesty in which it was delivered, mixed with such compassion and sensitivity. The ending left us speechless."

    My sentiments exactly. It was both heartbreakingly honest, but don't with such compassion. Wasn't the ending beautiful?

    Hope you're having a wonderful weekend!
    X

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  29. Hey there Pat!

    "I wish my mother and I could have had these conversations before she died. Unfortunately, she showed absolutely zero emotion."

    My father was kind of the same way. He didn't talk about or even wanted to let us (his children) know that he was terminally ill and dying. My mother was the one who called me and told me what was happening. I was so grateful for that because I was able to spend 9 days with my father; caring for him before he passed away.

    " I want to see the entire documentation and see how to make it a better and more honest experience for my family."



    I think you will receive much inspiration from the documentary and perhaps it will help to make conversations between your family and mother more open.


    Thanks so much for stopping by, buddy. Have a great weekend!
    X

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  30. "I love Atul Gawande's writing in the New Yorker."

    I can't wait to read his writing because before viewing this documentary, I hadn't even heard of him.

    "And since a specialty area of mien is people with terminal illness, I've had many, many discussions with people about their imminent deaths. It's such an important conversation to have and no one gets to escape dying."



    Yes, you're absolutely right, it's such an important conversation to have because I truly think it makes the process more bearable to go through the emotions of acceptance.


    Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and feelings on this topic, my friend! You've added much.


    Have a great weekend!
    X

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  31. Ron, I watched the documentary today (twice) and agree with you, it was breathtakingly honest. The part that moved me the most was the older gentleman who said that even though he was dying he was a happy guy. It brought tears to my eyes. Thanks again for sharing this remarkable documentary.

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  32. "The part that moved me the most was the older gentleman who said that even though he was dying he was a happy guy. It brought tears to my eyes. "


    Me too, Robert! And he actually LOOKED happy, didn't he? I was so moved by how he spent his final days surrounded my his family and friends, talking openly about his death.


    Thank you for stopping back to let me know that you watched the documentary, buddy.

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  33. I don't fear death, but I can't emotionally handle the whole calling hours thing. I rarely go to them, and instead, offer support to those in grieving by just being a good listener.

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  34. " I rarely go to them, and instead, offer support to those in grieving by just being a good listener."

    And often times that's the BEST support you can give - being a listener. I think that's awesome.

    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend. Great too see ya! Hope you had a wonderful time on your trip. Welcome back!

    X

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  35. BenzekneesMarch 28, 2015

    This is especially poignant for me right now Ron. I'm sure you realize I have been doing some struggling of my own since my COPD diagnosis. I don't know how long I will live but I do know it won't be as long as I had hoped. On top of that, I am going to get increasingly more & more dependent on others to help me with daily living as my disease progresses. After being a fiercely independent person all my life, this has been a bit tough to swallow. Then there is the added fear of dying of suffocation as my poor lungs eventually cannot pull enough air into my body to sustain life which is a terribly scary thought. The terribly sad part of all this is I have been actively seeking rehabilitation & was refused since they thought it would be too dangerous for me & I have been actively seeking counselling to help me cope with the changes in my lifestyle. The counselling has been a farce & has only left me feeling angry & disappointed.
    I have spent a little time discussing end of life decisions with my hubby but he can only stand a bit at a time. He finds it too morbid to spend too much time in any one sitting. He knows I am actively supporting legislation in the works here in Canada which would allow people with chronic or mortal illnesses to die with dignity & with a physician's help.
    So much of this is what is keeping me from writing now but I want to find my voice again.

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  36. Benze, thank you so much for sharing so openly and honestly on this topic. And so much of what you shared are things that my mother and I spoke about when she was ill. She had the same thoughts (being more dependent on others) and struggled with similar things, such as, getting support from her doctors and the medical community which also left her feeling angry, frustrated and disappointed. And when someone is seriously ill, that is something they shouldn't have to deal with on top of being ill.

    Thank god there are doctors like Atul Gawande who are trying to change these things by getting the medical community to wake up and commuincate more openly and honestly with their patients during a time a when they need support.

    Please know that you are always in my thoughts and prayers. And that I'm always sending LOTS of 'good enery' your way.

    ((((((((((((((( You )))))))))))))))))))

    "So much of this is what is keeping me from writing now but I want to find my voice again."

    You WILL find your voice again, dear friend!

    X

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