Death is a transient process

Juliet Siena Okoroh, PRIME-HEq MS4 at UCSD SOM

My patient is a 60 year male who had a motor vehicle collision into a tree.  He had an ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction and was found to have 100% occlusion of the right coronary artery and greater than 60% occlusion of the left anterior descending artery.

He is stable in the ICU, but it’s time to update family.

To myself,  “He is young and may probably survive this.”

Someone should update the family. “I will, I will.” I said.

As I walked to the door of the patient’s room to talk with the family a voice in my mind says, “Stop. Would you want to find out from a medical student if your family member was this sick in the ICU?”  Of course not.

I walk up to the resident and said, “I feel very comfortable talking with his family however given that he is critically ill I think it would be in the best interest of the patient and family to have a licensed MD discuss his clinical condition.”

The resident agreed and tells the patient’s family he is doing well and will be extubated today…

The following day I asked, “Where is my patient? He is no longer on the list.”

He passed away….

I will maintain the utter respect and dignity when communicating with the family of the critically ill.