Tuesday, December 27, 2005

"Did I Bury My Mother Alive?"

"No," says Dr. Zeus. But the bereaved is not reassured.
“This is Mr. X. I need to know something very important. Did you make sure my mother was dead?”
“Excuse me?”
“Her doctor told me she had a pacemaker, and that it would work for over ten years.”
“Yes, those batteries run a long time.”
“Well, if the pacemaker was working, that means she was still alive, so I buried her when she was still alive. Did you check that she was dead?”
I look at the phone. Take a deep breath. Always tell the truth.
“We don’t make a diagnosis of death here at the Coroner’s Office, sir. They’re pronounced somewhere else.”
“Do they ever wake up?”
Another look at the phone. I explained that people are examined before they arrive, and they are put on a cold metal tray in a freezer. If they were asleep, they’d wake up.
He wasn’t convinced...
They speak for an hour. But two days later, he calls back:
He’s still upset and can’t sleep. He still thinks his mother is buried alive. As it’s been three months since his mother’s funeral, she’s not alive anymore—even if she was buried alive, which she wasn’t...

This conversation takes another hour. Logic is not helpful; his fear is neither logical nor rational. Finally, I refer him to my boss. I take his number, and tell him the boss will call.

I go to the boss’s office to brief her. She looks at me like I’ve grown a third head.

“Does he think a pacemaker makes his mother immortal?”
“I made that point boss.”
“A pacemaker won’t work on a dead heart, William.”
“I told him that, too.”
Ultimately, the man is referred to a grief counselor.


Blogger the Robot Vegetable said...

# Lawyer: "Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?"
# Witness: "No."
# Lawyer: "Did you check for blood pressure?"
# Witness: "No."
# Lawyer: "Did you check for breathing?"
# Witness: "No."
# Lawyer: "So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?"
# Witness: "No."
# Lawyer: "How can you be so sure, Doctor?"
# Witness: "Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar."
# Lawyer: "But could the patient have still been alive nevertheless?"
# Witness: "Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law somewhere."

from: http://www.courttv.com/people/scm/

9:11 PM  
Blogger the Robot Vegetable said...

oops wrong URL

..and that's not where I found, it's odd, google gave me a different list...

9:16 PM  
Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

I received e-mail from a visitor to my blog asking me, in all apparent seriousness, whether it was possible for a person who was on life support to die.
I have a feeling this is not a concern only for this one visitor. It may well be generalized. I suspect there may well be a number of folks who don't understand the term or the limitations of "life-support". ..Maurice.

9:27 PM  
Blogger Joel said...

How sad and how desperate of the man.

12:34 AM  
Anonymous Samson Isberg said...

There are a lot of people like him. As long as he calls the doctor to vent his grief, that's part of the job. It's when he calls his lawyer or, even worse, the Board of Health, that things can get out of hand. Not only for the doctor, but also for the accuser, whose mourning process gets completely derailed by the judicial system.

2:28 AM  
Blogger the Robot Vegetable said...

My father was on "life-support." He died.

11:16 AM  
Blogger Kat said...

In October, my uncle, who has been researching our family history, found my great great aunt's grave. She *was* buried alive. Ironic that we found out just a week before Halloween.

4:16 PM  

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