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Features > ‘I had never heard silence so solid’: a palliative care specialist reflects on lessons learnt from listening to the dying

10 January 2018 | by Kathryn Mannix

‘I had never heard silence so solid’: a palliative care specialist reflects on lessons learnt from listening to the dying


‘I had never heard silence so solid’: a palliative care specialist reflects on lessons learnt from listening to the dying

 

I  first saw a dead person when I was 18. It was my first term at medical school. He was a man who had died of a heart attack on his way to hospital in an ambulance. The paramedics had attempted to resuscitate him, without success, and the emergency department doctor whom I was shadowing was called to certify death in the ambulance, before the crew took the body to the hospital mortuary.

It was a gloomy December evening and the wet hospital forecourt shone orange in the street-lamps; the ambulance interior was startlingly bright in comparison. The dead man was in his 40s, broad chested and wide browed, eyes closed but eyebrows raised, giving an impression of surprise. 





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