living your best to the end

Dr Michael Gordon: geriatrician and humanist

Dr Michael Gordon on playing music together, information vs knowledge and sex. Dr Michael Gordon, Geriatrician (amongst other things) What a wonderful wide-ranging conversation with Dr. Michael Gordon, Geriatrician, Writer, and Ethicist. Not necessarily in that order. His terrific and highly readable book,Moments that Matter: Cases in Ethical Eldercare was the basis for us talking – but the good doctor rose to the occasion when I put forward my belief about decision-making: it’s rarely the domain of the individual alone. Using a lovely musical analogy that succinctly articulated my observations: decisions are made, not in isolation, but in collaboration and consultation with our community. “Autonomy in decision-making is a misconception. Rarely do we act as soloists: we’re always playing with others. Even virtuosos are usually backed by an orchestra.” We talked about the overabundance of information. “Along the info highway, we’re given lots of data. That data has to be translated into information – which still doesn’t tell us what to do. Information has to coalesce into knowledge, which has to be seen in the light of what’s right for you.” Recognizing the impact of the internet, another tale of well-meant but poorly executed information: “Getting older, we lose our sense of thirst. We’ve all been told to drink 8 glasses of water a day, so this concerned daughter was making sure her mother got the full quota. Meanwhile her mother was becoming increasingly confused. Some simple tests revealed that with all that water, combined with diminished kidney function, her body was losing sodium and potassium. She didn’t have enough salt being retained because she was also taking a...