I'll never forget helping John die. No, I didn't kill him. Cancer killed him, but I helped him die by telling him what to expect, how to protect his functional independence for as long as possible, reframing and contextualizing the whole beautiful and awful business, giving him drugs, calling cancer a bitch, and holding his hand.
I currently live and work in Miami as a doctor for old people -- the very profession so derided in my early years of training. To be more specific, I am the psychiatrist at one of the largest nursing homes in the United States. Although people sometimes call my place of work "God's waiting room," they miss a much bigger picture.
Baños, Ecuador, a balmy village of waterfalls and thermal springs poised on the neck of the massive Tungurahua volcano, is the type of lush South American hamlet that makes tourists and travel writers swoon. Normally, I'd be thrilled to be there, but instead, I was half-conscious with pain. I was lying on an exam table in the town's medical clinic, my skirt hitched to my thighs.
"In the case of abortions, where time is essential and providers may not be easy to find, delays in care are unconscionable. To enforce a waiting period violates the doctor’s ethical duty to provide appropriate, timely care and to avoid causing the patient unnecessary grief. The law forces us to violate our ethics. To force us to perform ultrasounds, transvaginal or otherwise, is battery.
In This Issue
Liz Di Bernardo