Frontline Features Atul Gawande
On Tuesday night, February 10, PBS will broadcast a Frontline program featuring Atul Gawande and his new book, Being Mortal. As I wrote in an earlier blog soon after this book was published, Dr. Gawande grapples with the difficulties his profession has in talking honestly with patients about their treatment options as they cope with life limiting illnesses. He also reflects upon the history of nursing homes, and how they are not designed with the needs of the patients in mind.
I have heard Dr. Gawande speak about the writing of Being Mortal, and those who watch are likely to come away with a deeper appreciation of his research and his thinking on this subject. Although people shy away from the topics of death and dying, the way that Dr. Gawande thinks about this subject is to focus on how to live as well as possible.
Dr. Gawande’s perceptions about the dynamics of most patient-physician interactions should give you a jolt. Dr. Gawande puts the burden of changing the conversation squarely on the physicians, so that the discussions are more direct, and honestly discuss the likelihood that treatments will lead to any improvement. However, there is much that patients and families can and should do to partner with the medical team to work for a good outcome. They need to educate themselves and to ask questions that they may be afraid to ask, so that people can avoid care that prolongs death but does not improve life.
Tune in on Tuesday night at 10:00 p.m. It promises to be an hour that you will remember.