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August 20, 1982

The Intern's First Death

JAMA. 1982;248(7):821. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03330070013005

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For the most part, she was like the rest; Overloaded, frothy, frantic for air. I had seen her a dozen times with a dozen different faces And tamed her disease with easy drugs, Leaving her in the acute care bedlam, Shamelessly peeing the noxious juices That swelled her paltry legs and lungs. Now this remnant woman was in my charge, Waiting for meds to clear her edema; meds only a scribble away. Just as my pen was cocked, he approached in a longer coat, Frayed by years of patient care. Then he gently caught my arm and told me not to write. This stranger who could never know my heart, Ignored the ancient sacred oath, And spoiled the intern's only trick— To treat, perhaps to heal.

Then children held me with their eyes, Asking for drugs that don't exist; To mend grandmother's failing heart So they could say and do