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Poetry and Medicine
September 17, 2003

To Lao Tsu, From the Ward

Author Affiliations

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 2003;290(11):1425. doi:10.1001/jama.290.11.1425

I slept all night beside the dying man
and rose each hour, checking the numbers
that measured his collapse,
despite the bags of blood, the tube
connecting his penis to the urine bag,
the gasping machines that filled his lungs.
I got up each hour, checked his labs,
drew blood, and administered adrenaline.
I say to you, who listen
or wonder: It is no simple thing
to accept the Tao, and then to practice medicine
in the same lifetime.