A pediatric intern encounters her first dying child. Her initial response is to care for the child, hold him, and try to comfort him. She is told by her attending physician that this behavior is unprofessional. When she cries in response to her stress and grief, she is told she will never be an effective physician. The narrator then describes how she ultimately came to terms with her impulse to cry at stressful times, and how she interacts with patients in her current practice.


The issues of physician emotion and an unsupportive medical establishment resonate for women physicians, residents, and students. This essay is helpful for discussion of how to handle emotion, how to express emotion as a physician, how to provide emotional support for the dying, and how to think about medical care for patients who cannot be cured.

Primary Source

J. Amer. Med. Assoc., 261: 3612 (1989)

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