End of Life | Hektoen International

A CV for posterity

Anthony Papagiannis Thessaloniki, Greece   Lonely tree with timber by Anthony Papagiannis The British Medical Journal (BMJ) is one of the oldest and most eminent general medical journals. Among its many and varied features is a regular obituaries page. Departed members of all branches of the medical profession, academic teachers, researchers and Nobel Prize winners, […]

The morning ritual

Peter H. Berczeller Dordogne, France   Years ago, I heard the adage: “When you get up in the morning, and you don’t see your name in the Times obituaries, you’re good for another day.” I was young then, with no understanding of the seriousness beneath this seemingly witty remark. As a medicine resident, I was no […]

Why not let her go gently into that good night?

Victoria Lim Iowa City, Iowa, United States  Old woman dozing (1656) Nicolaes Maes (1634-1693) One early morning I was paged to see an eighty-five-year-old patient in the dialysis unit with low blood pressure. I learned that she had diabetes, hypertension, and diffuse atherosclerosis. In the past decade she had undergone four major surgeries for blocked […]

Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and their doctor are dead

Joshua Niforatos & Gregory Rutecki Cleveland, Ohio, United States   ROSENCRANTZ: “Whatever became of the moment when one first knew about death? There must have been one, a moment, in childhood when it first occurred to you that you don’t go on forever. It must have been shattering – stamped into one’s memory. And yet, […]

Death and dying

Tolani Olonisakin Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA Memento mori, remember death. Photo Credit: Southtyrolean, Stencil art. Seville, Spain. Six weeks after I turned eighteen, I lost my father. I was told he died of a cardiac arrest. One minute he was reading the morning paper, and the next minute he lay sprawled across the living room floor, lifeless […]

The last talk

Inge Marry Shikangala Windhoek, Namibia   Alike but Different, by Inge Marry Shikangala, 2017 In April 2016, I took my father to Engela State Hospital at the northern border of Namibia. This was the nearest hospital, but still twenty kilometers away from where my father lived. My two cousins helped me get my very tall […]

Dance with death

Marianne Rogoff Kentfield, California, USA   “All that is important is this one moment in movement. Make the moment important,vital, and worth living. Do not let it slip away unnoticed and unused.” ― Martha Graham Stephanie lived alone in a rented cottage at the back of a garden path. When she was dying at age fifty […]

Cold autumn nights

Maria Magdalena Geanovu Stroesti, Romania   Veronica Geanovu, on the right, with her grandson, Alexandru, on the left. One of the last walks in the park, enjoying, as it is, the mild weather and remembering her youthful past. It is said that balance exists, that for every misery an equal amount of happiness is about […]

Unfinished business: end of life care and regrets in the films of Akira Kurosawa

X.M. Griffiths Tuckahoe, NY, USA   Director Akira Kurosawa (center) with actors Takashi and Miki Odagiri on the set of Ikiru (1952). Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. Death and mortality were recurrent themes in Akira Kurosawa’s works but the director examined the issues most acutely in the films Ikiru (1952) and […]

The dying room

Gregory O’Gara New Jersey, United States   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 the […]