Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Take heart, and expire.

Due to confidentiality rights of patients, all people in the medical field are trained to speak in code. There is a symbol for everything, an acronym for every position placed properly within the hospital hierarchy, and every person/patient is reduced to a number (i.e., if you want to talk about Mrs. Roberts, please simply refer to her as "345 Bed 1"....OR if you want to talk about her roommate Miss Smith, simply say "345 Bed 2" seeing how she has a window bed).

And another issue that cannot be talked specifically about in hospitals? Death.

As absurd to me as this seems (after all, we all are going to die) employees are trained not to talk about patients potentially dying. Even though it is a hospital and it seems this would be the safest place (if any) to talk about such a thing (i.e., I realize saying things like "she is dying" or "he only has 2 more hours to live" may seem out of place and a bit creepy for say, a high school locker room discussion or a grocery store checkout lane but at a hospital? Can't this be a safe place, if there ever should be a safe place, to talk about death?

I'm not advocating momentary morbid conversations all day long, plus the weekends. I'm simply wondering 'why' we westerners think we must be so "proper" and "professional" and "reserved" and "calm" and "collected" and "put together" when it comes to the subject of death?

All this to say, today I overheard one nurse tell another nurse "285 Bed 1 has expired." Which in farmer talk means "the milk has gone sour." However, in hostpital talk it means a "this person has died." As soon as I heard this while walking by, I stopped, looked at the nurse and then walked on. I don't think I like the idea of referring to people as if they're all gallons of milk just waiting to be thrown out. I don't necessarily think it's healthy to be reduced to a number and treated as if you're the one product that just didn't make it into the big supermarket aisle display this Easter season.

But alas, I have no alternative language code or system to offer the medical field so maybe I should just shut up. Maybe I should be walking around room-to-room while working at the hospital, labeling patient's foreheads with my human-expiration/death-date stamp. "Oh I'm sorry 265 Bed 1, but you're probably going to expire tomorrow so please---eat your over salted pieces of bacon and try not to think about it."

1 comment:

Fabio said...

I just found your blog through searching for other stuff. Good stuff on here. I agree about the subject of death. I especially find it weird when Christians think of death as a morbid thing. Death is just a part of everybody's life.