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Poetry and Medicine
July 7, 2010

A Reasonable Hope

Author Affiliations

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor. Poems may be submitted to jamapoems@jama-archives.org.

JAMA. 2010;304(1):17. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.648

for David Goldblatt, MD (1930-2007),
who promised patients with ALS that
if he placed them on ventilator support
he would be there to help them off it.

When Ann called to assure friends that
you had had a good death,
that you were you until the end:
clear-headed, talkative, even humorous,
I hadn't a nano- of doubt.
Even though our e-friendship
had a shaky start: you insisting on
quotes around Hope in a Dickinson line
I had used in an epigraph,
need necessarily trumped pride:
two seventy-something men with cancer
greedily sharing their writing lives.
One of your stories, David,
returns to me today as a reason for hope
—hope for a merciful death.
You wrote of George, a patient
for whom you had stopped the ventilator:
“Before he closed his eyes,
smiling as he felt the morphine,
he said his last words: a piece of cake.”

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