Gravely ill patients teach medical students about listening and compassion

From Harvard Magazine:

Patient_1 In a room where somber faces are the norm, Steve Cappiello is beaming. The tall, muscular 36-year-old points to his feet with a kid’s delight and declares, “Today was the first day I tied my shoes in a year. It sounds small, but it was big for me. I never thought a hunk of plastic would change my life as much as it has.” Cappiello is referring to the prosthetic left arm he has been awaiting for months, since losing his limb to cancer. For this once-hardworking day laborer from Brockton, Massachusetts, the “hunk of plastic” offers a chance to regain independence, support his family, and feel useful again. No longer will he need to ask for help buttoning his pants or tying his laces.

On one level, “Living with Life-Threatening Illness” is about the simplest of concepts: how to say hello, say goodbye, and listen. But by tackling issues so often avoided, the course also helps at least a handful of trainees become more comfortable with death and dying as they begin evolving from laypeople into doctors. This comes at a time when patients and families increasingly seek better end-of-life and palliative (comfort) care for themselves and their loved ones.

More here.