Atul Gawande on the Importance of End-of-Life Conversations

October 14, 2014


We are big fans of surgeon, writer and public health researcher, Atul Gawande. Dr. Gawande eloquently writes on topics related to the challenges and problems of modern medicine. As a pharmacy practice with the goal of finding a new way to help people manage their overall health, we at Hill Country Apothecary appreciate Gawande’s ethos of examining and questioning the way we do things. In his case, the practice of medicine.

In his newly released book, “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End,” he tackles the very sensitive subjects of palliative and end-of-life care. In this affecting book, Gawande argues that although modern medicine has triumphed by extending our life spans, this very fact has made it more difficult to address end-of-life issues. These complicated issues run counter to what modern medicine is supposed to do: keep us alive.

What is palliative care?

The WHO defines palliative care as an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual.

Palliative care is a very sensitive subject. However, discussing this issue is more urgent than ever, with a rapidly aging population and a healthcare system filled with gaps. These are conversations we should have with our loved ones and doctors, but first knowing our priorities is key. What do we want our life to be like, if we have to face a debilitating illness? What are we willing and not willing to sacrifice when it comes to treating or managing that illness as it relates to our quality of life? Gawande’s book convinces us for the need to start these very difficult conversations. Dr. Gawande makes a strong case for an enhanced focus on our priorities for life and death, and dispenses practical advice on how we can approach end-of-life issues with our loved ones and ourselves.

Dr. Gawande was recently on The Daily Show with John Stewart talking about “Being Mortal.” Watch it here!

About the author
Owner of Hill Country Apothecary, Adam Metcalf grew up as a second-generation pharmacist in his father’s independent pharmacy. While there he learned the crucial role that an independent pharmacist can play in community health care. Adam focuses on individual services such as compounding medicines, medical therapy management (MTM), immunizations, and collaboration with physicians. He believes that exceeding traditional pharmacy model standards means “coming out from behind the counter” and adopting a patient-centered approach.