29 June 2016, The Tablet

Last things

by Julian Hughes


The Way We Die Now
Seamus O’Mahony

The memory of one particular Saturday shortly after I had qualified as a doctor is seared into my mind. An elderly lady who had undergone several major operations in the previous weeks had taken a turn for the worse. There were numerous tubes entering and exiting her body, she was receiving oxygen, she was comatose and her body was covered in bruises. The surgical team were unable to accept the idea that she was dying. Over the course of the day I was told to perform numerous blood tests, as well as blood gases (a painful procedure involving inserting a needle into an artery in the wrist) and blood cultures, looking for infections.

I put up various drips and started different antibiotics. But by the evening the woman had died. My conviction then and now was that everything I did that day was a waste of time – and the antithesis of good medicine.

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