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Should there be a mandatory silence when a patient dies?

26th October 2011

Liver surgeon Pauline Chen, author of Final Exam: A Surgeon’s Reflection on Mortality, suggests doctors and nurses should be obliged to pause for silent reflection when someone they are treating dies.

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When a patient dies, whether that is in the operating room, clinics or the intensive care unit, the doctors and nurses caring for that individual should observe a mandatory five-minute silence at the bedside.

My experience is that caregivers disperse immediately the patient’s death, their thoughts on the next patient and avoiding confronting what can be seen as their professional failure.

A few years ago, a young transplant patient I took care of died but none of us paused to remember her or our conversations with her.

We moved on, not talking about the woman who had just died in the room.

I have often thought back to the fact I did not stop to remember her or acknowledge her impact on me. There was no closure to our relationship, no acknowledgment of her life or my grief.

If I had, I would not be so weighed down by her death as I am now.

I am convinced that a five-minute pause for silence after a patient dies will change the way doctors, nurses and other caregivers approach death.

It will give closure, respect and allow caregivers to acknowledge their own feelings and enable healthcare providers to do a better job caring for the dying.

That pause for silence would allow us to attend to our own grief about a patient who has died and free us to commit ourselves fully to those who will follow.

 

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Comments

Anonymous

Wednesday 21st December 2011 @ 17:38

I am convinced that a five-minute pause for silence after a patient dies will change the way doctors, nurses and other caregivers approach death. It will give closure, respect and allow caregivers to acknowledge their own feelings and enable healthcare providers to do a better job caring for the dying. That pause for silence would allow us to attend to our own grief about a patient who has died and free us to commit ourselves fully to those who will follow.


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