Handing off becomes a personal loss, even when it's to the patient's family or to a hospice professional, even when there is plenty of time, the right planning and everyone is in agreement on what to do next. So we delay, or give up, or wait for the disease to make the decision and for death to have the final word. But it is still a shock how hard it is for both doctors and patients to make the decision to let go. Sometimes we never do.
And so my month with Mr. Martinez went on until one morning when I found his room empty, the bed stripped bare and the blinds opened to a blazing blue East L.A. sky.