A physician stands in the laundry, folding her baby’s diapers, and thinks about Mr. Dantio, who died of wildly metastatic cancer. She reflects on the development of her relationship with Mr. Dantio during the time that she was pregnant. Toward the end, he developed a lung infiltrate, maybe a type of pneumonia. There was a chance that a biopsy might have helped--perhaps he had a treatable infection--but she recommended against it. Now she wonders about this decision. She wonders also about what the other physicians think of her: "you don’t really want to be a doctor anyway, you must be conflicted to have a child . . . . " She remembers seeing Mrs. Dantio in the supermarket shortly after her husband died, and crying with her. She asks herself: Will I ever be a REAL doctor, "because in moments of great stress I revert to my native tongue."


The cycle of birth, development, maturity, decline, and death. The healer brings forth life, as the dying man encounters his mortality and gives up the ghost. At another level, the physician experiences herself as speaking her "native tongue" of closeness and compassion, rather than the professional language she has been taught. Is objectivity and distance necessary to be a good doctor?

Primary Source

The Good Doctor


Univ. of Iowa Press

Place Published

Iowa City, Iowa



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