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A Piece of My Mind
April 14, 2015

The Ethics of Patient Care

Author Affiliations
  • 1Division of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics, Department of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia
JAMA. 2015;313(14):1421-1422. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.1080

Early morning, I lay on a narrow table. An anesthesiologist, whom I had never met, was peering over me. I had been waiting anxiously to tell the anesthesiologist about my huge cervical spinal bone spur. A wrong positioning of the cervical spine could produce intense pain, the kind I’d experienced before, or worse, result in a weak arm, also experienced before. I began to explain but fully expected the anesthesiologist would dismiss my concerns with a “Don’t worry. We handle this all the time.” Instead, he listened. “So you have difficulty extending your cervical spine. Show me, slowly, how far you can comfortably extend.” He gently extended my neck. “Does this hurt? Is it comfortable? Can you do this much?” I felt an enormous relief. The man had taken me seriously.

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