Sierra Leone is pleading for more international help to fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. On Saturday, the country recorded 121 deaths in one of the single deadliest days since the disease appeared there more than four months ago. At least 678 people have now died in Sierra Leone, with the official toll for West Africa topping 3,400. On Monday, President Obama said his administration is working on additional protocols for screening airplane passengers to identify people who might have Ebola, but ruled out a travel ban on West Africa. Meanwhile, the first patient diagnosed with the disease on U.S. soil, Thomas Eric Duncan, remains in critical condition at a Dallas hospital. The handling of Duncan’s case has raised questions about the how U.S. hospitals are prepared to handle a domestic Ebola outbreak. We are joined by Dr. Atul Gawande, a surgeon and best-selling author, regarded as one of the most influential healthcare policy writers in the country. "Our response was pathetic," Gawande says. "We simply mounted no substantial response. It might have been the best thing that has happened that the first case to leave the African continent came to America, because it brought our mobilization to realize that what happens there matters to us here. This is a disease that is eminently stoppable with basic public health measures."
Despite our advances in medicine, a new book calls for a radical transformation in how we approach the end of life. In "Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End," the physician and best-selling author Dr. Atul Gawande argues that a rigid focus on prolonging life can often undermine what is best for a dying patient. "Medical science has rendered obsolete centuries of experience, tradition, and language about our mortality," Gawande writes. "Our reluctance to honestly examine the experience of aging and dying has increased the harm we inflict on people and denied them the basic comforts they most need." A surgeon at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Gawande is an acclaimed staff writer at The New Yorker and a professor at Harvard Medical School. "Being Mortal" is his fourth book, following the best-selling "The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right."
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