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It's called the Hippocratic Oath. I pledged myself to uphold this when I became a doctor. Do No Harm is about as brief a summary that can be created for this agreement. No matter who the patient, what they've said, done, or believe in, I can never turn them away.
It seems like an obvious decision to always help a person in need, but we all get tested at some point. For me, it was my son's murderer.
Four years ago, he rounded a corner in his truck by my son's elementary school without paying as much attention as he should have. My son was killed on impact, the image of his mangled body on the road forever burned into my mind, the sickening crunch and assorted screams along with it.
The killer walked. According to the judge, my son was not fully within a crosswalk as he crossed the street towards me, meaning the man was not liable.
Absolution from the court must not have been enough to clear his own guilt however, as the face that lay in front of me that I will never forget was identified under a different name. In the three months since he arrived under my care, he has not had a single visitor. Either he cut ties with everyone he knew, or they cut ties with him. Maybe both, and I don't blame any of them for it.
He arrived comatose from a cocktail of sleeping pills, pain medications, and some chemicals yet to be identified. For three months, he has remained this way, but not for a lack of trying to pass on. As much as I want to end his life everyday that I see his static face, to stab his eyes through with scalpels, to cut him open and remove everything but his black heart, I don't. I care for him like I would any other patient, because I am a professional, and I honor my oath.
Every day I check on him first when I arrive and last before I leave. I keep him alive because that's my job. He has yet to become brain dead, so I hope he has some idea of what's going on. That I am keeping him breathing, albeit through tubes, because I fulfill my responsibilities, something he never seemed to understand. I hope he's at least somewhat conscious beneath his dead expression, that time is passing normally for him so he can reflect on his mistakes and realize how much worse he is in comparison to the rest of the civilized world.
But at the end of the day, there's nothing more I can do. I won't end his life, but I can't bring him back to the world either. All I can do is let him lay there like furniture and keep him from falling apart.
But I suppose I'm lucky in a way. I was lucky to be the first on call to care for him. Lucky that he has no visitors, and lucky that no one at work recognizes the John Doe I put in his room. As night closes in, I make sure his IV is full enough to keep him resting easy through the night. I turn off the basement lights, and take one last look at the chart I brought home from the hospital, to read that one section that lets me rest easy as well:
"Do Not Resuscitate."
Written by Provider92