Taking stock of our existence

Gawande versus Frankl on the meaningful life

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My last post was prompted by a reader’s comment where Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning and Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal were juxtaposed.  Since receiving that message, I have had occasion to notice that others also associate these two books.

For example, both are mentioned positively in this moving article by Dr. Clare Luz about a friend’s suicide, and in these tweets from Dr. Paddy Barrett’s podcast program:

Friends and patients of mine have likewise mentioned these two works to me, expressing praise and testifying to the deep impact the books have had on them.

I suspect that many readers of this blog will at least be familiar with these two books.  If not, summaries are here (Frankl) and here (Gawande).

I read the books in succession and found the difference between the two striking.  Frankl and Gawande seem to be at polar opposites on the question of life and death.  In this post, I will explore this difference, starting with Gawande’s point of departure.

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Evidence-based mania: an intoxication of the intellect

And an attack against reason

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For many years, thoughtful commentators have highlighted the shortcomings of evidence-based medicine (EBM).  Among them was Alvan Feinstein, one of the great pioneers and theoreticians of clinical research, and arguably one of the founders of the EBM movement.¹  But despite the increasing discontent with this mode of thinking, EBM remains an extremely prevalent intellectual vice that has captured the mindset of the medical community.

In the last few days, I came across some particularly striking examples of how EBM dominates the medical psyche.

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