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We do what we can


Academic year: 2022

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Vol 64: FEBRUARY | FÉVRIER 2018 |Canadian Family Physician | Le Médecin de famille canadien



t will come as no surprise to physicians that our patients do not always do as we say. Treatment cannot be imposed upon the competent patient, even if in his or her best interest. I wrote this poem as a second-year medical student.

It is about recognizing that we cannot always help everyone, and about the process of growing to be okay with that.

We do what we can

Sarah Fraser MSc MD CCFP

Teenage apathy versus cervical adenopathy

The teenager’s adenopathy (lump) blanketed one side of her neck Her drug list was long.

cigarettes, alcohol, special K, marijuana, benzos

fentanyl and amphetamines What? she said

When left to their own devices Some people try shit

While I was palpating her nodes she requested to leave for a smoke

I told her the exam wouldn’t last much longer and her boyfriend encouraged her to stay, too

She would need to see ENT

but had skipped such appointments in the past Out for a smoke

and she didn’t come back

Two months later sitting on the street at night she was begging for money with her boyfriend I gave them five dollars

but they didn’t recognize me or thank me for the money which I was ambivalent about

Her adenopathy had grown significantly

Dr Fraser is an author and a family physician practising in Dartmouth, NS.

Competing interests None declared


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