Gepost in: Ethiek

‘I just have admitted an interesting sepsis’. Do we dehumanize our patients?

‘I just have admitted an interesting sepsis’; ‘Do you have the lactate of that oesophagectomy on ICU-2?’; ‘I asked the neurosurgeon to take a look at that bad-looking subarachnoid haemorrhage in box three’. These are three examples that the first author overheard physicians saying to each other when referring to patients in the intensive care unit (ICU). They were talking about Mr B., a 63-year-old male taxi driver (‘the interesting sepsis’); Mrs C., a 69-year-old frail widowed woman (‘the oesophagectomy’) and Mrs D., a 49-year-old mother of three (‘the bad-looking subarachnoid haemorrhage’). We wondered, would the young doctors also talk about ‘an interesting sepsis’, ‘an oesophagectomy’ or ‘a bad looking subarachnoid haemorrhage’ if it concerned their father, mother, sister, colleague or spouse? Probably not; that would be seen as inappropriate. It would be less empathic. But why do we so often talk about patients as if they were just diseases, operation techniques or organs? Why do we depersonalize or dehumanize them?




Erwin J. O. Kompanje, Margo M. van Mol, Marjan D. Nijkamp


Intensive Care Med (2015) 41:2193–2194