Wondering If I Hastened a Patient’s Death

Surgeon talking with woman about her husband's death
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| New York Times Health.
 In my outpatient exam room, we had arrived at that moment of silence that often marks the crossroads of unwelcome news and a difficult decision.

My patient, in his mid-60s, had endured a five-week hospitalization after he learned he had leukemia, a period of time that included expected complications of chemotherapy such as nausea, hair loss and fevers requiring intravenous antibiotics, and unexpected ones such as a trip to the intensive care unit when his blood pressure plummeted, and an erosion of the tissues lining his esophagus that made it impossible for him to swallow even water.

But he had entered a remission and rather than emerging from his trials war weary, he said the experience “wasn’t too bad.” I marveled at his resilience.

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