The cold hospital environment

Another nice NY Times essay. The benefits of an impersonal hospital environment, and why doctors don’t cry:

Monitoring the potassium, adjusting the antibiotics, getting the latest scan result “” this is a full-time job, enough to keep a patient and family completely distracted from the awful truth. The welter of information, so much of it useless, is the accidental genius of our current health care system.

And it works “” witness the difficulty so many face with dying at home. Almost everyone confronted with the choice expresses the wish to die among familiar surroundings. All the necessary pieces “” visiting professional care, a hospital bed, an I.V. pole, the works “” can be gathered with relative ease.

Yet frequently, it gets too, well, emotional. Sitting in a den or dining room awaiting death is too intimate, too personal, the free-fall toward the end too breathtaking.

So patient and family return to the bustle and insensitive self-importance of the hospital. And they get the full monty: the reassuring whir and hurry of blood samples run at all hours, portable X-rays taken in the next bed, scratchy announcements over the loudspeaker.

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