Saturday, October 13, 2007

"What critically ill person needs above all is to be understood"

That was the line that jumped out at me when I was listening tonight to Fresh Air's Terry Gross read from Anatole Broyard's book Intoxicated by my illness. I transcribed the whole quote (see below), which strikes me as a particularly powerful and succinct expression of how the visitor with the best of intentions can actually alienate an ill person. And the quote also states wonderfully what it is that an ill person often actually needs. Here's the whole quote (which Broyard wrote about his experience with terminal prostate cancer):

All my friends are wits, but now that I'm sick I'm treated to the spectacle of watching them wear different faces. They come to see me and instead of being ironical and making jokes, they're terribly serious. They look at me with a kind of grotesque lovingness in their faces. They touch me, they feel my pulse almost. They're trying to give me strength and I'm trying to shove it off. The dying man has to decide how tactful he wants to be. What a critically ill person needs above all is to be understood.
I intend to get this book. It sounds like will be an excellent part of literature readings for CPE students, especially after reading the very positive annotation it was given at the Litmed database.

The interview, by the way, was actually with Broyard's daughter, Bliss Broyard, and comes from the 9/27/07 podcast (at about 18:50).

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