Clinical Detachment

It surprises me when people admire the way I can 'detach' myself when patients die.

It surprises me because it's not really an effort and it's not really a skill. I think it just comes from the experience of seeing several people die. These days death is so separated from the public sphere that so-called 'lay people'- those who don't work in healthcare- only ever see their own relatives die. And their relatives usually die in a hospital bed.

It's not that it's not sad, or that I don't see them as a person, or that I don't feel sympathy for their loved ones. Of course I do. But people die. Some of those people will be very dear to me and others I hardly know. Truth be told, a number of them I never knew because they were dead on arrival.

Of course some deaths upset me. If the person is similar age to me, or perhaps they are suffering the same disease as a relative. It always poignant if they have a book in their posssesion because I immediately feel a connection to a person with a book. They clearly had so much to live for!

It is also upsetting if I think our treatment went awry- either that we should have been able to save them or that we somehow did the person a disservice in our efforts to halt their inevitable slide towards death.

I loved Six Feet Under's depiction of a death at the start of each episode for similar reasons. Some deaths were incredibly sad, others mundane. Each only really began to make sense once you met their family or loved ones later in the episode.


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