All things being equal

When I wrote this post about deaths in the hospital, a fellow blogger pointed me to a short story called "Zanduce at Second." It's about a baseball player for the Orioles who has managed to kill eleven people with errant foul balls. There's a wonderful line in it: eleven [deaths] isn't really worse than one for me, because one was enough by itself. It doesn't double with two.

I had a patient who was terminally weaned today. The patient was old and had risk factors. The patient had significant, severe disease. By all accounts, it was this person's time. Compare this to this young lady that I was following earlier. She was 30 something, young, without medical problems, and generally well until a vessel in her brain decided to explode.

If you look at things objectively, you'd say the younger patient is far more tragic. She was young and in the prime of her life, leaving behind a family with children, and the children she could've had. Her life was cut 40 some years short. It's awful.

But the thing I've learned is that you can't quantify tragedy. There's no yardstick for it. This old patient and the young lady, one is not more tragic, not more sad. It's all tragedy, and that's something that can't be added or subtracted. In such unequal circumstances, there's always equality in sadness.

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