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Being Mortal (2015)Being Mortal (2015)

This documentary by PBS Frontline is a one-hour distillation of the 2014 book of the same title.  I usually think of books as being more substantial than their movie counterparts, but with this film I'm not so sure.  The personal stories that you see and hear in the movie are just profound. Atul Gawande is a general surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and a professor at Harvard Medical School.  Gawande says that we have been seduced by "the prevailing fantasy that we are ageless." Instead of acknowledging the limits of medical treatments, we have turned mortality into an almost purely "medical experience," which in turn has led to denial, dishonesty, arrogance, and, for the elderly and the dying, horrible social isolation. Whereas the vast majority of people used to die at home among a multi-generational family, by the 1980s only 17% did. This reduction of mortality to medicine, says Gawande, has done tremendous harm instead of healing.  The movie explores the deeply personal stories of doctors, patients, and Gawande's own father's death from spinal cancer and how his family dealt with that.  There are numerous practical takeaways from this film and the book.  Most notable might be Gawande's observation that "sometimes you can't count on your doctor to take the lead, the patient must do that."

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