My first patient with Alzheimer’s, Sheryll, led me on a journey of questions and self-growth which I had never expected. Until meeting her, I hadn’t thought extensively about how our biology may dictate cognition and free will. While my thoughts on the matter continue to develop as I broaden my clinical experience, these considerations continue to frame my understanding of my patients, myself and the world around me.
My agitation grew as I realized I needed to do something. I was a medical student training to be a doctor after all, right? Wasn’t I supposed to help alleviate the burdens of others?
While there is no way to choose our patients’ outcomes, we can certainly choose to be empathetic and compassionate regardless of their outcomes. Medicine without empathy and compassion is not medicine at all.