When Ignorance Is Bliss
When patients communicate their desires, Mikkael Sekeres, MD, MS, says physicians must listen, even if that means sacrificing a firm diagnosis. A 97-year-old patient reminds him that answers aren’t always the answer.
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“I don’t know if I’m looking forward to being 98.”
My 97-year-old patient revealed this to me during our first meeting in my clinic examination room.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
He rested both forearms on the high arms of his wheelchair, which caused his shoulders to hunch and gave the impression that he was about to spring into action. He spoke deliberately, choosing his words carefully. His eyes were rheumy but sharply focused, commanding my attention.
“I don’t want to end up… you know, blotto,” he said, quickly pantomiming a person slouched to one side of his chair, mouth open.
“Why do you think that might happen?” I asked.
“Because of my medical condition, or whatever you’re going to recommend I treat it with,” he answered, matter-of-factly…