A fellow family physician who cares for people at a clinic in Central America wrote about the death of one of her long-time patients in an e-mail last week. The woman came to the clinic barely able to breathe and with her heart failing. As they tried to stabilize her to take her to a hospital for further care, she knew that she was dying and requested not to be taken there. She said “I want to die here, with the people who loved and respected me, my clinic.”
She expressed the understanding that there are some things that are more important than having the ability to treat diseases effectively and extend people’s lives. We should strive to provide high quality, effective medical treatment, but caring for people is more than that. It includes loving them and showing them respect as sisters and brothers in the human family.
All of our patients eventually die. When they do will they know that they were loved and respected by us as we cared for them?