Tag Archives: death

A wrong time to die

Anthony Papagiannis Thessaloniki, Greece   Lockdown in Thessaloniki. Photo by the author. Death is the one absolute and unexceptional certainty in life. In the Bible we read that there is a time for everything, including a time to die [Ecclesiastes 3:2]. Is there ever a “right” time to die? Faced with such a question, we […]

The proximity of death

Paul C. Rosenblatt St. Paul, Minnesota, United States   A family outing at Lincoln Park in Chicago a few weeks before the author became ill. Pictured are the author, his mother Rose Rosenblatt, and his sister Doris Rosenblatt (now Kopfstein). Photo taken by the author’s father Harry Rosenblatt and published with permission of the author. […]

Heart failure

Charles Halsted  Davis California, United States   By the time I completed my third medical school year, I had learned the basics of physiology and biochemistry, but had never been face-to-face with a person who depended upon my skills to survive. I had never heard a racing heart nor the sounds of gurgling lungs. I […]

Goals of care

Leah Grant  Portland, Oregon   Photo by Jake Thacker on Unsplash It was the beginning of my intern year and I felt like an impostor. Facing new responsibilities in both the hospital and clinic, I was aware of my lack of experience when patients asked for my medical opinion. But as I began to see […]

The finality in their voices: death, disease, and palliation in opera

Lea C. Dacy Eelco F. M. Wijdicks Rochester, Minnesota, United States   Figure 1: Violetta’s deathbed in La Traviata, from 2009 Glimmerglass Opera production directed by Sir Jonathan Miller. Photo by Richard Termine, used with his permission. I know she had tuberculosis! She was coughing her brains out . . . but still she kept […]

Wet nursing: a historical perspective

Mariella Scerri Mellieha, Malta   A Russian wet nurse, c. 1913. Painted by Frederic de Haenen public domain via Wikimedia. Wet nursing, a form of breastfeeding provided by someone other than an infant’s biological mother,1 has a long and sometimes controversial history. Death in childbirth, a mother’s illness, as well as cultural habits and circumstance […]

Emily, Usher, and American Gothic perspectives on mortality

Olga Reykhart Liam Butchart Stony Brook, New York, United States   1894-1895 Illustration by Aubrey Beardsley of the short story “The Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allan Poe. Accessed via Wikimedia. In an editorial for Medical Humanities, Gillie Bolton notes that death is a common theme in literature and also in medicine. […]

Tracing wisps of hair

Miriam Rosen Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States   Child’s Play by Miriam Rosen  My mother was diagnosed with cancer when I was fourteen. For the next nine years, she lived her life with elegance and seemed to do it with ease. She continued her psychiatry practice, only gradually reducing the number of patients she saw. She […]

Death in the time of corona

Nivetha Subramanian Palo Alto, California, United States   The Garden of Death. Hugo Simberg. 1896. Ateneum Museum.  Source When several years ago, a virus, continents away, barred grieving families from holding their loved ones, I thought how lonely it must be, to breathe a last breath, surrounded by masked strangers. I greet you this morning, […]

Washing our hands

Anthony Papagiannis Thessaloniki, Greece   Winter Sunshine, Halkidiki, Greece. Photo by the author Ever since Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, washed his hands before condemning Jesus Christ to death by crucifixion, this simple act of personal sanitation has been used as the figurative icon of a disclaimer, the denial of responsibility. Today, in […]