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Critical Reading and Response on the Article “Letting Go” Essay

In the article “Letting Go” that was being published in The New Yorker, Atul Gawande addresses the issues regarding to the current medical care system that fails to meet the needs of the patients with terminal illness. Gawande points out that the patients want to spend more quality time with their family members and having some special last moments rather than struggling to stay alive when they know that the chances are thin. Knowing the time to let go was one of the crucial part of the art of dying which people nowadays has forgotten. Gawande argues that choosing the hospice care would sometimes be a better choice for the terminally ill patients.

He uses statistics such that the patients that choose hospice lives longer or than other patients and they tend to suffer lesser to support his argument. Hospice care tends to go with less pain treatment and focuses on the needs of the patients. It increases the quality of life of the patients during the last moments of their live. The patients’ family members are less likely to suffer from depression when they have chosen to go with the hospice care mainly because they have prepared themselves to face the death of the patient when time has come.

Gawande’s argument is that the medical care system nowadays fails to meet the needs of the patients. His argument is convincing because he appeals to the emotions of his reader through both his own and others experience and statistics.

Gawande reels in his readers’ attention and interest through some of the real life experience before he educates them. That makes it easier for the readers to absorb what Gawande is trying to deliver to his audience. In order to make it even more convincing, Gawande uses two extreme cases as a comparison to prove his point that hospice care would be the better choice for terminally ill patients.

He uses the story of the “lucky” guy-Dave Galloway who died “at home, at peace, and surrounded by family” contrast with the poor old lady-Lee Cox who was died due to cardiac arrest and followed by a series of actions to bring her back to live. “They pulled off her clothes and pumped her chest, put a tube in her airway and forced oxygen into her lungs, and tried to see if they could shock her heart back” (Gawande 133). Such contrast comparison and strong words that would impact the readers’ thoughts on how the process of death can vary through different circumstances. After that, he again embraces the benefits of choosing hospice care rather than going to hospital for intensive medical treatments.

Other than that, Gawande uses research statistics to support his argument. “A study led by the Harvard researcher Nicholas Christakis found out that sixty-three percent of doctors overestimated survival time and the average estimate was 530 percent too high” (Gawande 136). The statistics shows that how the medical system is failing to help the patients to get a grasp on how much time they still have in order to achieve the things that they want in live before their last breath. Since the research was carried out within the well-known institution-Harvard University, readers tend to believe the statistics more and agree upon Gawande’s view. By doing this, Gawande was trying to point out the flaw in our medical system so that his reader would be agreeing upon his argument.

Gawande also uses different statistics to support his argument. “Executives at Aetna, the insurance company, started a two-year study on letting a group of policyholders with a life expectancy of less than a year to receive hospice services without forgoing other treatments. The result is that the people that have chosen hospice service leaped from 26 percent to 70 percent” (Gawande 142). The result shows that people were visiting the hospital lesser after they were introduced to hospice care. Gawande was trying to use the statistics to tell the readers that there were a lot of people that was in the same situation as they are, and they have chosen hospice care over hospital treatment after trying it. That implies that the hospice care would benefit the patients more than the hospital would.

The overall structure of the Gawande’s article was well organized. He was able to convince his readers by giving a main idea of what he is trying to deliver through stories and then continue by some straight-forward points that he made. He then supports his arguments with examples to further enhance his point. The wording that he uses is simple yet it gives the readers some images that connect with their emotion. For example, “Sara would always arrive smiling, makeup on and bangs bobby-pinned out of her eyes. She’d find small things to laugh about, like the tubes that created strange protuberance under her dress” (Gawande 137). Gawande was trying to show that how sad it could be when a person is going through those surgery and treatment in order to get “fixed”. He would then use that emotion to bring up the point that is other solution to this problem which is the hospice care.

I do think that the current medical care system doesn’t meet the needs of the patients as there are some miscommunications between doctors and their patients. Doctors were always looking at the bright side of the illness of their patients which is good in some sense but at the same time, they have to prepare the patients for their worst case scenario. It is hard for the patients to accept the truth that their illness were beyond “repair” and doctors educate them to accept the truth so that they could go through a less torturing path for their spare life.

So, what I am trying to say is that we shouldn’t lose hope but at the same time we have to prepare our self for the worst outcome. If prolonging the patients’ life means that they have to suffer from surgeries and treatment that they need until the end of their life, why not just do things that are more meaningful? Despite all the flaws that we had in our current medical care system, hospice care seems to be the solution for the problem because it offers comfort and satisfaction in the ending life of the patients.


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