Archive for February, 2006

Always use a “D” word

Thursday, February 9th, 2006

Last night I went to the Pistons game with my friend Chris, his brother Matt and their brother-in-law Mike and a good time was had by all, despite the fact we were practically sitting in the parking lot. The players appeared the size of gummy bears, and the surrounding fans were a bunch of retarded high school and college guys (best quote from a skinny white kid: “Sheed’s my bitch” – call it a hunch, but I imagine if he were confronted with all 6-11, 230LB of Rasheed Wallace, this would in fact not be the case) but we still had fun and most importantly they won, ending a horrible two game losing streak.

Matt was sharing with us details of his job as an ER doctor when Chris asked him if he had ever informed someone that the patient had died. “All the time.” he said. Apparently there is no formal training on how to go about doing this, but you are given some general guidelines while training as a resident.

First is to briefly introduce your self to the family and friends, identify the closest loved one, look them straight in the eye and say “I have terrible news. [patient's name] has died.” Not passed away, expired, crossed over, found greener pastures or anything else to sugarcoat the fact that the patient is now an ex-person. One of the “D” words (died, dead, deceased) must be used so there is no misunderstanding.

He said a doctor once told a couple of ladies that their mother “didn’t make it.” The ladies were shocked: “but the ambulance left 15 minutes before we did! Where is she now?” Flustered the doctor said “No, no, she’s here now.” The ladies were quite relieved. “Oh that’s good. How is she doing?”

So to avoid such situations, you tell it to them straight. Reactions then vary from stunned silence, to crying and wailing, to flat out rage (one lady ran into the parking lot screaming “This hospital kills black people!”) but most times people handle it fairly well. Only then can the doctor answer questions and offer comforting statements, such as “the paramedics did everything they could.” This is always the case, even when it’s a lie. If the paramedics spent an hour in the deceased’s living room playing X-Box and eating Cheetos before attempting resuscitation, they still “did everything the could.”

Matt also found that when he tells them that after hour even if they managed to bring the patient back, they would just be a brain dead vegetable, people strangely take comfort in this. That struck me as a little odd, but I guess there was some logic to it. I made a note to ask Rasheed Wallace how he felt about it later. He is after all my bitch.