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What Matters in the End

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What Matters in the End

On Being podcast

On Being,

5 min read
5 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Questions about life’s purpose should be front and center when treating terminally ill patients. 

Editorial Rating



  • Eloquent
  • Engaging
  • Inspiring


Caught up with the demands of daily life and perennially distracted by the daily news cycle, people often fail to take the time to ponder the big questions: Why am I here? What makes my life worth living? Tragically enough, not even people with a terminal illness often get the chance to get clear on these questions while doctors are busy trying to prolong their lives at all costs. In this episode of Krista Tippett’s On Being podcast, physician and author Atul Gawande shares how basing medical treatment on an individual’s life priorities instead of purely medical imperatives leads to more meaningful and dignified outcomes for patients nearing the end of their lives. It is never too early to start reflecting on the things that matter most, and the spirited conversation between Tippett and Gawande provides important input for starting this personal inquiry.


When treating patients with terminal illnesses, physician Atul Gawande finds that doctors often ask the wrong questions. Physicians in the West have come to view disease as something they need to “fix” and the death of a patient as a failure on their part. But Gawande believes that survival at all costs isn't the priority of most patients. In his interactions with terminally ill patients, Gawande has started to shift the focus of his discussions from going over treatment options to talking about the reasons why a patient wants to extend his or her life. Only patients themselves know what makes them happy and what ...

About the Podcast

On Being is a Peabody Award–winning public radio show and podcast. Once a week, host Krista Tippett delves into the big questions of life with a different guest. Her guest on this show, Atul Gawande, MD, is a surgeon, a Harvard University professor of health policy and management, and a best-selling author.

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