Blog 5C. Emotional Situations



This continues the examples presented in Blogs 5A and 5B.

A hospital where I practiced needed careful, rapid decisions about caring for dying patients. Families didn’t know what to do and were scared. Most doctors didn’t know how to handle care when a patient was certain to die.

The hospital started an ethics committee. Three doctors rotated month by month to chair its consultation team. A senior nurse, a therapist, and a dietician rotated on the team as did three business men, from outside the hospital, interested in ethics.

A family agreed it was best to let mother die peacefully. A son arrived late at night from the other coast. Because he’d not seen mother for decades, he felt painfully guilty.

“Do everything you can to keep mother alive!” he insisted.

A senior nurse and a business man joined me on the ward with the son and the local family, and two senior nurses from the ward.

Our team’s nurse and its business man acknowledged the son’s wish to talk to mother, his guilt about not having seen her for decades, and praised his coming so far.

The medical evidence showed mother would never wake up or speak. We all told the son mother could probably feel him hold her hand and feel the emotion in his voice. He should tell her he loved her. Now he agreed with the rest of the family: keep mother comfortable, let her die peacefully, no more tests, no breathing machine.

I called mother’s doctor. He was never trained to deal with dying patients. He listened, asked me good questions, and followed our recommendations.

Illustrations in my blogs are either my own drawings or courtesy of

Contact me at 650-762-6755 or for more information or to start a conversation.

Pieter Kark, MD, San Mateo, CA 94401

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Pieter Kark, MD
Owner at Business Team Solutions: Turn Your Pain into Gain.

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