Atul Gawande at TED:
I learned about a lot of things in medical school, but mortality wasn’t one of them. I was given a dry, leathery corpse to dissect in my first term — but that was solely a way to learn about human anatomy. Our textbooks had almost nothing on aging or frailty or dying. How the process unfolds, how people experience the end of their lives and how it affects those around them? That all seemed beside the point. The way we saw it — and the way our professors saw it — the purpose of medical schooling was to teach us how to save lives, not how to tend to their demise.
The one time I remember discussing mortality was during an hour we spent on The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Tolstoy’s classic novella. It was in a weekly seminar called Patient-Doctor — part of the school’s effort to make us more rounded and humane physicians. Some weeks we would practice our physical examination etiquette; other weeks we’d learn about the effects of socioeconomics and race on health. And one afternoon we contemplated the suffering of Ivan Ilyich as he lay ill and worsening from some unnamed, untreatable disease.