[Skip to Navigation]
[Skip to Navigation Landing]
Views 5,424
Citations 0
Poetry and Medicine
November 12, 2019

The Dying Psychiatrist

JAMA. 2019;322(18):1831. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.16431

Dr Frankl died after a placid week
in the hospital of something that hadn’t
smothered his questioning. His bearded,
skeletal face would begin to enquire
about my life each day before I slipped
my stethoscope under the sheet
he kept pulled to his neck. A psychiatrist
expiring in a way that didn’t require
I do much, yet work needed to be done
in other rooms. His strangely irrelevant
questions were awkward — Was I happy?
Did they treat me right? What did I like to do
when I left the hospital? In those days
I tended to sit for a minute or two
on the edge of a patient’s bed
while completing my routine. When Dr Frankl
reached for my hand and pressed it in his,
a movement that made me tighten,
his voice broke up, like a clod of dirt
in a dry riverbed. Days before he died,
I told him I was desperate to get away.

Limit 200 characters
Limit 25 characters
Conflicts of Interest Disclosure

Identify all potential conflicts of interest that might be relevant to your comment.

Conflicts of interest comprise financial interests, activities, and relationships within the past 3 years including but not limited to employment, affiliation, grants or funding, consultancies, honoraria or payment, speaker's bureaus, stock ownership or options, expert testimony, royalties, donation of medical equipment, or patents planned, pending, or issued.

Err on the side of full disclosure.

If you have no conflicts of interest, check "No potential conflicts of interest" in the box below. The information will be posted with your response.

Not all submitted comments are published. Please see our commenting policy for details.

Limit 140 characters
Limit 3600 characters or approximately 600 words
    1 Comment for this article
    The Dying Psychiatrist
    Michael Gross, M.D. | Private practice, psychiatry and psychoanalysis
    It seemed chilling to me. The dying psychiatrist, clinging to his identity as an asker of personal questions. The attending, afraid of the personal question - the physical contact, himself "dying" to get away. We hope not to die alone like that.