Category Archives: Book review

Review: Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, by Atul Gawande

Author Atul Gawande is an American surgeon, writer and public health researcher; he practices general and endocrine surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. His personal experience regarding the subject of aging and mortality includes a grandfather who lived to be 110, his father who experienced cancer, and his mother-in-law’s aging and dying process. Professionally, he was often called upon to perform last chance surgeries on patients in a medical system that doesn’t like to admit defeat.

Many of these surgical procedures didn’t provide clear benefits, but in today’s medical world, a lack of action is equated with giving up. Gawande learned the hard way that though medicine could offer endless treatments to prolong life, in most cases, additional treatment did not serve the patient’s deeper wishes, and often made matters worse. These “heroic measures” also greatly interfered with a peaceful and connected exit; it’s hard to talk when you’re intubated.

Gawande unflinchingly explores the nursing home and assisted living options today. Once again, it’s clear our country and health care system have “issues”. Being Mortal addresses these areas as it elegantly and intelligently explores (the book’s subtitle) “medicine and what matters in the end”.

You’ll hear an amazingly informative history of how our current nursing homes came to be. Have you ever heard the term poorhouses? My great aunts would use this term in a joking matter, such as, “Oh no, then you’ll wind up in the poorhouse”. This was clearly something to avoid. Continue reading

Don’t forget the elephants: Stress mgmt. 201

Tom Rath is an inspirational human. A writer, researcher and filmmaker, he studies the role of human behavior in business health and well-being. Diagnosed with cancer at age 16 – high school, yes – he found out during his treatment that he happened to have a rare genetic disorder. As a result, he was missing the all-important tumor suppressor genes. His cancer was treated, but was told that he now faced a life where cancer risk would be very high.

I can’t imagine receiving that news at such an early age, and it was not delivered as a very promising situation.

Some time ago, Tom began to do his own research on any science related to health and well-being. He’d review hundreds of studies some months, looking for any clues to augment his health and longevity, and stay ahead of his own health risks.

Today Tom is in his forties, married, with two children. In addition to his own writing and wonderful work (, twitter @tomcrath), he is a senior scientist and advisor to Gallup, where he’s an expert on employee engagement, strengths and wellbeing. Remember Strength Finders 2.0? That is his work, along with half a dozen other NY Times bestsellers. Fascinating to see his evolution over time.

His story has a big lesson in terms of stress management. Continue reading

Book Review: Dying to be Free: A Survival Guide for Families after a Suicide

According to estimates, every 17 minutes someone commits suicide. Those left behind, called survivors of suicide, number forty each hour, almost one thousand per day, according to AAS[1]. The total of survivors of suicide today number ten million. Due to many factors, these huge numbers are thought to be under reported.

Beverly Cobain is a psychiatric nurse who is also Kurt Cobain’s cousin. A certified psychiatric nurse, she and social work colleague Jean Larch are experts in this field of suicide. Jean Larch has offered the workshop, Understanding Suicide, since 1989, training for mental health professionals. Their book is a boon to anyone who has been left behind by a suicidal loved one. It’s short, packed with important knowledge, and includes stories of other survivors. Stories + knowledge help a lot, especially when the subject is as painful as this.

For many, it’s impossible to fathom why anyone would end their life by their own hands. Continue reading