Atul Gawande and his best-selliing book, Being Mortal: "Endings are important."
Atul Gawande and his best-selliing book, Being Mortal: “Endings are important.”

Medical schools do a great job teaching students how to fix people. But they aren’t so good at preparing doctors for what Dr. Atul Gawande calls “the two big unfixables” — aging and dying.

In a PBS documentary based on his best-selling book, Being Mortal, Gawande shows how doctors—himself included—are often remarkably untrained, ill-suited and uncomfortable talking about chronic illness and death with their patients.

The documentary will be shown in the ASA’s Great Room at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday (Sept. 7). A Boston surgeon and New Yorker writer, Gawande is a prominent voice among the small but growing chorus inside medicine arguing there must be a better way to help patients navigate the end of life.

“Hope is not a plan,” Gawande insists, noting that too many physicians avoid a terminal prognosis in favor of offering hope that some new treatment can at least prolong the patient’s life. This tendency contributes to why most people in the US say they would like to die at home, yet so many of us die in hospital.

The video is at its most powerful when it shows patients and families as they adjust their approach toward one that places a greater emphasis on quality of life rather than quantity of life.

He takes us behind closed doors to witness intimate and heart-breaking end-of-life conversations among doctors, patients and their families.

The documentary argues we all have a responsibility to have these difficult conversations about our wishes and priorities at the end of life, ideally around the kitchen table long before a crisis overwhelms us.

Gawande agrees. “It matters to people how their stories come to a close. Endings are important.”

Written by Mike Maharry, Academy Village Volunteer

More Info on attending an event
Academy Village is an active-adult community located off Old Spanish Trail six miles southeast of Saguaro National Park East. Its residents support the Arizona Senior Academy, a non-profit charitable organization whose mission includes offering free concerts and lectures to the public.

These events are held in the Great Room of The ASA Building adjacent to the Academy Village Community Center. Due to the popularity of cultural events, non-residents who wish to ensure priority seating are advised to make reservations by email at or by phone at (520) 647-0980. To learn more about the Academy, go to

Parking for visitors is in the lot behind the Community Center. All parking spaces in front of the Academy building are reserved.

Documentary Explores Atul Gawande’s ‘Being Mortal’: September 2016
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