Being Mortal

Being Mortal

Illness, Medicine and What Matters in the End

Atul Gawande

the authors warning that doctors would sometimes have to go farther than just interpreting people’s wishes in order to serve their needs adequately. Wants are fickle. And everyone has what philosophers call “second-order desires”—desires about our desires. We may wish, for instance, to be less impulsive, more healthy, less controlled by primitive desires like fear or hunger, more faithful to larger goals. Doctors who listen to only the momentary, first-order desires may not be serving their patients’ real wishes, after all. We often appreciate clinicians who push us when we make shortsighted choices, such as skipping our medications or not getting enough exercise. And we often adjust to changes we initially fear. At some point, therefore, it becomes not only right but also necessary for a doctor to deliberate with people on their larger goals, to even challenge them to rethink ill-considered priorities and beliefs.

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