Last week, I spent a few hours in a palliative care unit.
As medical students, we’re fixated on the living. What drug can cure that symptom. How surgery can remove the cancer. Where we can find a bed so that the patient with diabetes can have her complications managed.
Rationally, we know that everyone dies. We dissect cadavers in our anatomy classes. We read about fatal diseases in our textbooks and see pictures of brain tumours and mangled hearts cut open.
But still, we believe we can save everyone.
A heartfelt reflection from a medical student on the process of palliation and what it means to deliver care in its purest sense.
There comes a day for each and every one of us to have to come to terms with death. In this profession, it is always the looming destination of those we interact with, the final stop. With every effort we make, we buy more time for patients, their lives, and the lives of those whom they have touched. However, the truth is that despite even our best efforts, sometimes life cannot be extended, or it is decided to not be the best course. Ultimately what matters as much or more than the measured outcome of life extension, is the quality of life, life completion, and dying with dignity.