(the cedar waxwing expired not long after we last observed it, without any interference from the cat; an accidental poison ingestion is suspected; no autopsy will be performed)

The speaker at graduation was rather humanistic in his ideas, with great hopes for perfection through technology. However, he had an entertaining way of talking, for which virtue a great deal may be forgiven to a commencement speaker. One point he made, which was echoed by all the doctors in the family when we got home and started dissecting the evening. He talked about being at the deathbed of a patient who died joyfully, and going to the wake of a patient, at which he was the only guest, because there was no one (besides a very few family members) to mourn them.

My relatives, the doctors, told several similar stories from their experience, emphasizing the importance of doctors accepting the fact that patients will die, and then helping them with it, rather than remaining in denial. (Which reminds me of how upset the attending last month got with some of the heme/onc consultants, who would come see a patient who was obviously fast on the way downhill, with metastatic disease and many medical issues, and talk about some aggressive chemo or surgery; the attending would then come behind them and have what he saw as a more honest conversation about the seriousness of the patient’s condition (some of these people we saw clearly didn’t have more than a month left, and yet had not been told that they had a terminal condition), the very poor prospect of any benefit from treatment, and the possibilities for hospice and comfort care.)

I should have realized it before, I guess, but it only clicked the night of graduation: Doctors need to go to patients’ funerals(/wake/viewing/whatever). That’s as much part of the job as anything else. They didn’t tell me that when I applied, but I can see that it will be very important.

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