Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Patient generosity of spirit

It is a well recognized phenomenon, but it still brings me up short when I see it. The issue is that when life support is removed or a patient dies for other reasons, family members often want to make sure that the attending physician does not feel too upset by the event. Perhaps this is some kind of transference reaction, but I think it is more a case of generosity of spirit emerging from the particularly close relationship that develops during these end-of-life cases.

I recently received a note from a colleague whose relative had died after a difficult hospital procedure. He wrote to tell me about the case and said about the physician: "He seemed very upset. He is a good and conscientious man. Please check in on him and make sure he is OK."

3 comments:

Ms. Mom said...

Wonderful! In our office, I know we've really done our job when the patients with the worst complications remain the most loyal. I hope all our patients feel that we've invested as much of our own selves in their care.

Ms. MOM @ MOMrants.com

Rob said...

Interestingly, as a technologist, I sometimes get the same thing when one of my "patients" doesn't make it. I do my every best to work the problem, and they know it, and I guess it's a kind of released spring of emotion. They put their hopes in what a Doctor is doing and when it doesn't work out, it kinda sproings back at them, and they need to care for someone.

Funny. Moving. Very human.

dale said...

Following our son's death, we were extremely concerned about the welfare of his caregivers. It was an unexpected death by everyone. Although, the loss shattered our lives, we wanted to know that the young resident and nurse were doing OK. There was no correspondence from the staff so I sent several notes asking for a meeting, that were unanswered. We later learned, through the grapevine, that the surgeon couldn't work the next day and the resident almost quit medicine.

Most parents, whose children have died, experience this same connection to the caregivers of their children. Perhaps it's transference of care for those that cared for their child or perhaps genuine concern for another human being. I don't know but it is necessary.

In a non litigious world perhaps these meetings of discussion, empathy,caring and closure would be considered imperative and a healing for the family and the caregivers that were left behind. Dr. Arroll writes about attending funerals: http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/extract/334/7607/1322