I must have been looking disturbed. A couple of people, including the chief resident, asked me how I was handling the one patient’s death, and then stood still to listen to my answer. That’s the closest to those ‘debriefing’ things I’ve ever gotten (and I hope not to get any closer; surgeons don’t do well talking about feelings involuntarily). Just to have them ask was all I needed, and I told them I was fine. After all, in a way, when someone’s been deathly ill in the ICU for weeks, it’s a relief all around when they go. I feel kind of guilty, to be this relieved, but after all, they’re probably relieved to be done with the whole thing too. Except I’m fairly certain they’re in hell now (lots of Buddhist paraphernalia); in which case none of this is very good. . .
One of the patients who died recently had an autopsy, and I felt like I ought to go. I would be less of a good doctor and surgeon if I neglected anything relating to my patient, even now that she’s dead; but I also felt like a very bad person, to be semi-comfortable with seeing a person I’d known cut up in pieces. In the end, I got called away before matters had progressed very far; which was just fine with me, and I’ll wait to see the report in a week. (And the pathology residents: I can’t even imagine having that job. I can kind of picture what it would be like to do ER, or medicine, or radiology. But pathology is not just a different species, it’s a couple genuses [geni?] away. How can you be a doctor and not touch live things?)