“We were woefully unprepared to accept that sometimes, there are no cures”

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  • James Dickinson says:

    It is good that you learned this lesson: it appears rather slowly. The fact that you had to learn it this way, and as pointed out by others, that you need to talk about this discovery, is a terrible condemnation of the medical schools that you came from: presumably Toronto, maybe others. Please go back to your alma mater and tell them that helping physicians to understand the balance of caring and palliative approaches is essential for all graduates. Insist that they develop a program, and perhaps change their examination system to ensure that this is learned by every graduate.

  • Mary Woodman, NP-PHC says:

    A lovely reminder of the palliative approach to care, which seems never to be implemented soon enough.
    I hope that Pallium Canada might consider using this story in their LEAP curriculum.

  • Sandy Buchman says:

    Touching story, not only about this special patient, but also about the developing self awareness and personal growth of these resident physicians. As compassion for their patient evolved, they also began to recognize their own suffering in contributing to their patient’s suffering. Now then is an opportunity to not self-blame about how we as physicians could have done better, but to begin to practice non-judgmental self compassion, and learn humility as we listen to our patients’ messages about the importance of truly listening to our patients. When we do this, we will do better next time. As these resident physicians most certainly will.

  • Tracy Kolenchuk says:

    Doctors are not trained “to cure”. In the current medical paradigm, there are very few cures.

    Cured is not medically defined for any non-infectious disease. Cured is not defined for any chronic disease. Cured is not defined for any mental disorder.

    The word cure does not appear in many medical dictionaries and cure is not defined in any authoritative medical reference, much less being defined scientifically.

    Most clinical studies are designed, written, funded, approved, and completed without a definition of cured.

    Doctors are trained to treat diseases and medical conditions, to care, but not to cure.

  • Jay L says:

    This article feels incredibly contrived and cliche. Medical school and residency were never about trying to prolong life indefinitely to increase a number known as “age”. It was always about doing best for the patient regardless of what your person goal is (i.e. not solving the “puzzle” or “tweaking the leaky faucets”). To think that as a doctor was never correct. How many times do you need to write about these “experiences” before you realize that yourself? This same article has been written hundreds of time by medical students and residents alike.

  • Larry says:

    Uggghhh.l..another physician centric story on Healthy Debate.
    How about engaging other health professionals and trainees?

  • RAM says:

    I hope you, and others will in the health field will remember to be especially kind to single hospitalized people, with no family, who are dealing with chronic, incurable and painful illnesses. Visit us often. We have amazing stories to tell. Your company is curative.


Arnav Agarwal


Arnav Agarwal is an internal medicine resident physician at the University of Toronto and an incoming fellow in general internal medicine at McMaster University. He has parallel interests in clinical epidemiology, narrative writing, medical education and health advocacy.

Calvin Santiago


Calvin Santiago is a neurology resident at the University of Toronto. He is passionate about the intersection between art and medicine.

Sumedha Arya


Sumedha Arya is an internal medicine resident at the University of Toronto. She is passionate about the medical humanities, as well as person-centered care.

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