A Dream Dies


For only the third time in 4 years, I am not on call for Ethics at Hoag Hospital. The first time was in April when I was on vacation in Tennessee. (I continued to take calls on my other vacations). The second time was after my surgery in August. This time is different. This time it is permanent.

I have been grieving over it for the last week, ever since I sent my letter of resignation to the Chief of Staff. I didn’t want to quit, but circumstances made it impossible for me to continue. I have been responding to consult requests since becoming the Ethics Chairman in 2015. While the volume of calls was only occasionally stressful, when the calls did come they usually resulted in 3-4 hours of work added to my day. Some cases were more demanding, and over the course of a week could result in over 15 hours of work. The reality that a call could come at any time brought additional stress,

I did not want to do the work alone, but my pleas for help were not answered. I labored on, hoping that eventually the quality and impact of my work would generate support. As is often the case, words of support came, but actual help did not.

What saddens me most is not that my efforts were not recognized, or that the help did not come. I grieve for the patients and families who will go without help, for the suffering that will be needlessly prolonged, for the conflicts that will drag on longer than they should, and the belief that I could have made a difference.

A wave of sadness passed over me when I took myself off call this evening, There is so much more I wanted to do. I wanted to have weekly rounds with nurses and physicians so we could identify potential problems earlier and provide more support for families. I hoped to train others in how to perform ethics consults, to train nurses and physicians in how to better communicate with patients and families and to educate community members in how to better communicate with medical providers. I shared these ideas to as many leaders as I could, wrote proposals and gave presentations, all of which were ultimate ignored.

I don’t like to admit defeat, but this was a fight I could not win. For now I will take solace in the knowledge that I did the best I could and the hope that God has other things in store for me to do,