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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.

Section Editor: Rafael Campo, MD, MA, Associate Editor.
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Article Information

Corresponding Author: Jack Coulehan, MD (john.coulehan@stonybrookmedicine.edu).

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.

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    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.
    CONFLICT OF INTEREST: None Reported
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