The Unwanted Patient

When a mentally ill young patient stuck a needle into her heart and refused surgery, she quickly became a patient no one wanted, writes emergency physician Frank Huyler.

Invisible to the naked eye, the needle was treated as abstract. Passed from cardiology to cardiothoracic surgery to psychiatry, to internal medicine, each department produced “a tribal document, arguing that responsibility rested with another of the tribes.”

Then the needle moved. The surgery went ahead; the patient was discharged to a mental health center. But not before revealing to Huyler “how often the rational intellect simply launders our animal selves, offering desires as arguments."


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