A dif­fer­ent view of dy­ing

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By YANG YANG yangyangs@chi­nadaily.com.cn

One of the big­gest-sell­ing books in China in re­cent years presents a per­cep­tion of ag­ing and mor­tal­ity that is at odds with the na­tion’s tra­di­tional ap­proach.

Be­ingMor­tal: Medicine and What Mat­ters in the End by Atul Gawande, a sur­geon from the United States, fo­cuses on the lim­its of mor­tal­ity, ag­ing, death and re­lated is­sues such as de­bil­ity, as­sisted liv­ing, nurs­ing homes, ter­mi­nal ill­nesses, pal­lia­tive care, and hospice ser­vices.

Af­ter read­ing the book, An­drew Yu in Guangzhou, Guang­dong prov­ince, pub­lished a blog post about his mother, who has can­cer. The 43-year-old felt the book had given him a new per­spec­tive on death — whether to suc­cumb to tech­nol­ogy in an in­ten­sive care unit or to die at home with dig­nity. He re­called his 90-year-old grand­mother, who chose to re­turn to her home from the city at age 90 and died peace­fully in her na­tive vil­lage six months later.

Af­ter in­ter­view­ing more than 200 peo­ple for the book, Gawande found that many of them sup­ported his ideas for changes in health­care phi­los­o­phy, and his be­lief that rather than merely en­sur­ing health and sur­vival, the pur­pose of health­care and med­i­cal treat­ment “is to en­able well-be­ing”. His call echoes the words of Cicely Saun­ders, an English physi­cian who opened the world’s first mod­ern hospice in Lon­don in 1967: Last days need not be lost days.

Med­i­cal ad­vances have en­abled clin­i­cians to cure many pre­vi­ously fa­tal dis­eases and pro­long hu­man life to pre­vi­ously un­known lengths. How­ever, longevity does not equate with qual­ity of life, es­pe­cially for elderly peo­ple who no longer have the phys­i­cal func­tions to sus­tain in­de­pen­dence, Ji Yang,

Our time will come, but who can tell us what to do? Gawande’s book points to a new di­rec­tion ...” an ed­i­tor at Cheers Pub­lish­ing in Beijing

and the ter­mi­nally ill un­der­go­ing tor­tu­ous but fu­tile treat­ment.

More than 500,000 copies of the Chi­nese trans­la­tion of Gawande’s book have been sold, and more than 6,000 read­ers on the web por­tal Douban gave it an av­er­age rating of 9 out of 10.

In its factual but hu­mane fash­ion, the book gives the reader an op­por­tu­nity to think about ag­ing and death — topics that peo­ple tend to avoid.

Ji Yang, 38-year-old ed­i­tor atCheer­sPub­lish­ing in Beijing who in­tro­duced the book to China, said she sheds a tear every time she reads it.

“Our time will come, but who can tell us what to do? Gawande’s book points to a new di­rec­tion: what will hap­pen to us; how do we deal with life when we get old; how can we look af­ter se­nior mem­bers of our fam­i­lies. Do we have to die in a hos­pi­tal? Can we die with dig­nity?” she said.

One per­son who has found so­lace in Gawande’s book is Wu Xiao­long. He was dev­as­tated when a close friend died two years ago, but even be­fore the in­ci­den­tWu had pon­dered ag­ing and death.

“At 25, when I had just grad­u­ated from univer­sity and started work­ing, dis­ap­point­ments at work de­pressed me so much that I couldn’t see a fu­ture di­rec­tion. I sud­denly re­al­ized thatwewill all die one day,” he said.

“It’s like a soc­cer game. You’ve pre­pared for the game and have been play­ing it for years, but you sud­denly re­al­ize that one day you will have to leave the field,” said the 34-year-old Bei­jinger, who has spent a lot of time trav­el­ling and ex­plor­ing ag­ing and death.

He saw a sky burial in the Ti­bet au­ton­o­mous re­gion, and when he vis­ited a tem­ple in Kath­mandu, Nepal, in 2013, he wit­nessed a fu­neral where the mourn­ers danced around the body be­fore the corpse was cre­mated.

“I watched though it was event,” he said. it calmly, as just a nat­u­ral

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