Compelling and important.
I really enjoyed this book. It may sound strange to "enjoy" a book about dying, but it was very engrossing. It deals with issues that have a lot of meaning for me, since I've lost three close family members in the last eight years and for each of them I was responsible, with my siblings, for making decisions about end of life care and post death issues. I often felt that I was floundering not having a good idea what the options were or what resources there were to help me with those decisions.
Gawande discusses end of life care for various stages from mild incapacity to immanent death. His target audience is not just the family of the person needing care but also the medical community which so often seems to be part of the problem. He is sympathic and pragmatic, but basically he says that our current systems are failing our elders and terminally ill, and he proposes some possible changes in approach.
In the acknowledgements at the end of the book, Gawande laments that he's not a better writer, that he needed so much help. That may be true, but if so, it was certainly a success. I think it is very well written -- clear, direct, concise. He presents his subject through a series of cases he was involved with. And he describes them with such respect and empathy and clarity, that we come to feel connected with those people and want to know what ultimately happened. I was so engrossed at the end of the book that I pulled a near-all-nighter to finish it.
Although many people think a discussion of end-of-life treatment might be very depressing, it's not. I think this book is basically hopeful. Because there are now a number of people and professions focusing of these issues, and there are possibilities for changes.
This is an important book because those changes will not really occur widespread unless a large section of the public and the medical profession both become involved in making the changes happen. So hopefully this book will spark some very public discussions in a variety of media. I encourage everyone I know to read this book.