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Reverence for Life and Human Mortality

Posted on 12/18/2012

Mortal Matters blog (The Boston Globe): Last weekend a patient of ours at BIDMC died in one of our ICUs. She was young (early 60’s), with complications from major surgery, kidney failure, and multiple infections. As sad as it was — especially for a deeply devoted brother — when it became clear that her impending death was inevitable, I was struck by how at peace everyone felt. Very sad, but at peace.

Why?

In part it was because, thanks especially to her brother, everyone knew that we were taking care of her the way she would have wanted. She and her brother had spoken openly over the years of her illnesses — they had had “the conversation” regularly, as her illnesses evolved, and so he never had any serious doubt about what she would be thinking. Whenever she wasn’t able to speak for herself, he was able to be her “voice,” with confidence. Not long before she died he refused, on her behalf, one more round of surgery that the doctors were willing to do.

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