Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Another Medical Missive

You may recall that last fall, I was prompted to write (but did not send) a letter to my internist. Instead, I posted it here.

Once again, I’ve been irritated enough to write a similar (and yet a different) letter, this time to one of my mother’s doctors. And once again, I’m unsure about whether or not to send it.

So, please do me a favor: read the letter yourself and let me know what you think by sending an email or leaving a comment at the bottom of this post. Thanks.
Dear Dr. It’s-All-About-the-Tumors,

I am writing to inform you that my mother, whom you treated in the hospital for most of this spring, passed away peacefully and in no pain over Memorial Day weekend after 11 days in hospice. For my father, my sister and me, the long weeks that led to this sad outcome were fraught with reminders of some of life’s most important lessons, a few of which we would like to share with you.

First and foremost, we were reminded that people are sacred beings, not merely collections of body parts, and certainly more than the tumors and lesions that indiscriminately assault the physical vessels in which their essence and spirit dwell.

We also were reminded that if they’re lucky, individuals have family members who are of paramount importance to them, particularly when the individuals are ill. As such, family members deserve honest, realistic, forthright, and regularly forthcoming assessments about their loved one’s illness, especially at critical junctures in the treatment process. Body language and facial expressions, neither of which is visible when communicating information over the phone, are essential elements in such conveyances.

We learned that nurses and social workers often are the best conduits of information from physicians. The legibility of physicians’ handwriting, therefore, is imperative, not only to ensure accurate transmission of details to families, but also (and perhaps most important) to guarantee that patient treatment and care are never, ever compromised.

Through the kind words and gestures of most but not all of my mother’s physicians and caregivers, we were reminded about the significance of dignity and respect for all people, but most especially for those whose lives are drawing to a close. We were reminded, too—most notably by their glaring absence in a few specific instances—about compassion and kindness, and how very important they are to those who are enduring the loss of a loved one.

Henceforth, we will carry these lessons in our hearts as a lasting tribute to my mother and her well lived life. It is our hope that you will do the same.

OK, now that you've read it, don't forget to shoot me an email or leave a comment at the bottom of this post about whether or not I should actually send this letter to Dr. It’s-All-About-the-Tumors.

As always, thanks.