Saturday, October 4, 2008

Call it

I saw my first patient pronounced dead today. He probably came into the ER dead already, so I might not have witnessed him die. But I did get a very unsteady feeling as I heard the resident who'd been giving orders say the words, "Time of death: 2:31 PM." The resident was impressively poised and calm as he shouted tasks to the group of students, interns, and nurses (the attending was in the room but remaining hands-off). But even he was visibly shaken as he had to pronounce a human being dead, and, as I stuck around to listen, call the coroner.

Earlier in the day, the patient's son had taken him out from his residence for a hamburger. It turned out that the patient was on a puree-only diet, and the hamburger directly precipitated his death.

"Wow," one of the nurses commented, "that son is sure gonna feel guilty."

Or, I wondered, did he know exactly what he was doing? Did he and his father talk about the emptiness of a life of institutions and puree? Did they decide a hamburger would be the perfect way to go?

Doctors don't get to know the answers to these questions.


Che said...

In the past week, you've seen your first death and I've seen my first birth.

Rica said...

Yeah. I don't know if I'm ready for med school to be less about sitting in a classroom and more about people's lives -- and deaths.

Like you said, damn.