Milestones: Te Conozco, Bacalao

Dear Fiancee Of My Dying Patient,

To be honest, this is not REALLY a milestone. Patients and family members threaten me all the time, with everything from reporting me to my superiors, to lawsuits, to actual bodily harm. Some people even threaten me as if it’s a joke, when they’re uncomfortable with a medical situation. Dealing with being threatened is normal for me. It’s practically a part of my job description.

But since this is the first time this has happened since I got the degree, I may as well mark the occasion.

Ma’am, your fiance has stage four lung cancer and end-stage AIDS. He is dying. And though we’ve told you this many times, I understand that you haven’t yet accepted it. It’s a tragic, impossible thing to have to figure out how to accept.

I know that you do not know that you’re grieving. I know that you’re trying to exert power in a situation in which you feel powerless.

When you go and speak to the chief of medicine tomorrow about my refusal to flip your fiance’s medication schedule twelve hours so he gets his morning meds at night and his night meds in the morning, I hope it helps you take another step through the stages of grief that will allow you to face the end with grace and dignity together.

I know this demand is an expression of your need to participate in your fiance’s care and have some power over a horrible situation.

But let’s be clear. You’re not going to have my job for refusing.

You are a family member, and therefore your needs are important to me ONLY if all of my patients’ needs have been adequately dealt with first. If they haven’t, there’s only so much time I’m willing to spend on you. I’m sorry if that makes you angry. But my time is limited, and it belongs to my patients.

I am more than happy to be your bad guy. I’m everybody’s bad guy. Just look in popular media. The doctor is ALWAYS the bad guy.

People never think twice about threatening the bad guy.

It. Happens. All. The. Time.

If you don’t believe me, consider this:

I have been a ward doctor for ten days.

Ma’am, I wish you the best. I’ll see you tomorrow.

And I’m very good at smiling at you.


Dr. Grasshopper

(Posted with trepidation.)

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Published in: on August 11, 2010 at 11:16 pm  Comments (7)  
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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’m so sorry you have to go through this.

    Our son, our only child died of cancer. It just about killed us. But I always thought his doctor was a hero. I know he did his best to save our son.

    You are right, she’s grieving. You can be crazy when you’re grieving. Out of your mind. I know. So don’t worry, it’s nothing to do with you:)

  2. Oh, Terry, I’m so sorry to hear about your son.

    You must know exactly how my patient’s fiancee feels.

    The best of my wishes to you and yours.

    Thanks for reading. And thanks for understanding.

    Dr. G

  3. Its situations like this that made me go into the business of making war than fixing people. During a time of tragedy, people look at the doctor expecting them to reach into their magical bag of tricks and pull out a cure that doesn’t exist.

    I think it takes much more strength to exist in a world that is populated by people who are constantly leaving you behind. Congratulations on your milestone, grim as it may be, and here’s to more of them down the road.

  4. I never noticed that in the popular media that the doctor is always the bad guy. That’s a pretty difficult situation to be in on a day to day basis. Congratulations on your courage and expertise in dealing with that!

    • Thanks, dude.

      Yeah, it’s hard to notice unless you’re in that situation and pulling for the doc…………only to get smacked down over and over just when you think you’ve picked the right allegiance and this time will be different……


  5. You are unquestionably correct on this writing!

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