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Pronouncing someone “dead”

November 17, 2009

Every once in a while, med school knocks you in the head and sees if you’re actually paying attention to what exactly you are studying 10 hours a day for.

I had such an experience today.  All 1st year med students have to take a Basic Life Support (read: CPR) class (for obvious reasons).  Thus, I went to our skills lab and listened to a current fireman explain all of the latest CPR techniques.  He was a great instructor and it is actually very fascinating material (at least more than interleukins and cytokines).

At one point, one of the student’s basically asked when you wouldn’t initiate CPR or at what point you would stop.  He said for himself and the paramedics he works with, they have specific protocols and regulations they follow.  Then, he pointed out the fact that we (as future doctors) would ultimately have the responsibility of stopping life saving measures and pronouncing someone dead.  That is a specific legal responsibility granted to physicians.

It’s a sobering thought.  One of those things you don’t really think about when you’re applying to med school.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. littlemissmedschool permalink
    November 18, 2009 12:42 am

    Agreed. It certainly is a sobering thought. As a 3rd year, a resident recently asked me to pronounce a patient as deceased – or “expired” as they call it (an odd and seemingly cold term, if you ask me.) I panicked inside as I learned what I needed to look for. It was indeed scary, but it is a part of the job description and something that is surely very difficult for most. Still ,I hope that this is a determination that never gets any easy to make because we must always remember that every person is someone’s son, daughter, father, mother, etc.

  2. November 24, 2009 2:48 pm

    Great website! Just started my own last week and I’m checking out other sites. I enjoyed yours. Mine is written from the perspective of human nature first, medicine second.

    Great job, I’ll be following.

  3. December 5, 2009 3:39 am

    Hey there

    Nice post. I found you searching out other med blogs since I started my own two weeks ago. Even though it is hard pronouncing a patient, the real work and compassion starts when you speak to the surviving family, in the family room ifyou have one…when I trained, we weren’t even allowed to talk to a family in the family room without a long white coat on.

    Great site. I will be back. Check out mine if you get the chance.

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