End of Life | Hektoen International

The dying room

Gregory O’Gara New Jersey, US (Fall 2017)   Gregory O’Gara Turbulent Souls, 2017 Oil on canvas Private collection The first Sunday in December was a typical winter day; cold but clear, leafless trees, overcast sky. It was the kind of morning I dreaded as a child, having to get out of bed and go to […]

Is Daddy a good doctor?

Gregory W Rutecki Cleveland, Ohio (Summer 2017)   Tears at Calling Hours George Lundberg posed an intriguing question for a generation of physicians: why don’t more doctors go to the funerals or calling hours of their patients?1  In fact, he boldly predicted that the only funeral you can be sure your physician will attend will be […]

Breese Nursing Home: an exploration of humanity and love

Ellen Jantzen Newport Beach, California, United States (Spring 2011)   I attended a nursing home Christmas party at the Breese Nursing Home in Illinois the week before Christmas, 2010 and was very moved by the residents and their families; it was a life-changing event for me. Before, while visiting my mother-in-law, I would divert my […]

The end of sight at the end of life

Vincent P. de Luise  (Fall 2015)   Physicians find it difficult to confront and accept end-of-life issues in their patients because their professional education and ethos inform them to do all they can do to treat disease and prolong life. This is particularly difficult for ophthalmologists, who for decades have proudly trumpeted their splendid victories […]

Where is the dignity in death?

Therese Kwiatkowski Chicago, Illinois, United States (Spring 2011)   Death in the Sick Chamber, 1895 Edvard Munch, Norwegian (1863-1944) Oil on canvas 150 x 167.5 cm In my experience, the end of life is neither peaceful nor dignified. I wish I had been told that death is hard work for both the patient and the loved […]

A dying patient’s perspective on truth-telling

Shimon M. Glick Soroka University Medical Center, Beer Sheva, Israel (Spring 2011)   Mr. H, a 60-year-old farmer with liver metastases from a gastric carcinoma, had been in the hospital for quite some time. Jaundiced from his condition, he turned to one of the residents on rounds and said, “Several days ago, I asked you […]


Shelley Schoepflin Sanders Portland, OR (Fall 2015)   “Sure, I’ll take her ashes.” I heard my own voice from far away, but with real clarity I knew the decision was right. I know what to do with ashes. I will do something beautiful for Genevieve. The kind hospice nurse helped me finish signing Ginny’s Medicare […]

Since I could not stop death, he kindly stopped for me

Ruth Z. Deming Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, United States (Winter 2015)   Never were two sisters as close as Lori and I. It hardly mattered we were married and had our husbands, our passel of kids, and each earned a nice living at our jobs. Lori owned a string of nail salons in suburban Philadelphia called […]

The good death

Raeford E Brown, Jr University of Kentucky Medical Center, Lexington, United States (Spring 2011)   Physicians and nurses experience death all too often. We recognize the gray hue, the fetid odor, and chill of a body that has been failing for days or months. In hospital halls, we hurriedly pass families as they struggle to […]

The god that I know

Rae Brown University of Kentucky, Lexington, United States (Winter 2011)   When we start down the road toward medical school and residency, the idealists among us have a picture of the kind of physicians they will become. Our perception of the future rarely coincides with the reality that we often face. Ideally, principles that conflict […]