Dead. DEAD!!!!

We had a psychology professor in medical school. Her goal was to make us “sensitive” to our patients. In order to “be sensitive” she exhorted us to be clear when explaining things. One of those things was death.

“When a patient dies, you need to tell the family he DIED.  He did not ‘pass’ or ‘expire’ or ‘bought the farm. He died. And say it twice,” she told us, “so that the family hears it.”

And so it became one of those black medical school jokes. We would (among ourselves) say “Uncle Joe died. DIED!!!”

And so today, when my patient died (as expected), with his family at the bedside, I came in and listened for the absent heart tones and auscultated (unsuccessfully) for respirations.  “He is dead,” I told them. The nurses moved the patient and his bed into a private room so the family could grieve.  After a few minutes, one family member came out to me and asked “would it help if we put him back on the ventilator to help him breathe?”

Personally, I once thought the psych professor was a bit “over the top” in her instructions. After today, I guess I owe her an apology……

He’s dead. DEAD!!!!!