For the past four years, this is James Beck’s routine: After a morning spent guzzling $5 vodka, he stumbles into a Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot, lying on the cement with his dusty oversized coat splayed open to reveal a cachectic chest. A concerned patron (cigarette and coffee in hand) will call 911 and, in accordance with protocol, an ambulance will deliver him to our emergency room. Upon his arrival, we unpredictably ...

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7 a.m. began as it always did; the overnight doc was threatening to quit while rubbing her bloodshot eyes and smearing mascara beneath them. Between heavy sighs, she listed the patients transferring into my care ending with Mr. Mandel. “He’s eighty-something,” she explained, “hospice care. Cancer with metastases. Came in from home because family ran out of morphine and he was in a lot of pain. Anyway, he’s actively dying now, ...

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