The Harsh Truth: How Doctors Cope With Death In Their Job

by | Feb 23, 2024 | Health Care | 0 comments

Photo by Hush Naidoo Jade Photography on Unsplash

Doctors deal with life and death for most of their lives. However, while they do their best to save people, not everyone can survive. So, how do doctors cope with death?

Death is part of people’s lives. But this makes up half a doctor’s routine.

While they’re taught to save people and spend years mastering processes that provide longevity, not everyone will be lucky and healthy enough to survive. This is the harsh truth all medical practitioners must come to terms with. They may desire to heal the sick and protect everyone.

But the reality is that even the most well-versed and brilliant doctors can’t save everyone.

How Do Doctors Cope With Death? The Reality Of Medical Professionals

In his book, I am a Doctor My 3 Wives Died From Cancer, Ariston Awitan documents the harsh reality around cancer patients and the treatment process. Despite it being an illness that has wrecked countless lives and families, cancer still doesn’t have an established and legitimate treatment. And somehow, this has been accepted and gradually normalized. People have accepted that when hit with cancer, the chances of survival will be low. So much so that patients, once diagnosed, may already feel the need to prepare for the worst case possible.

The book shines light on this reality through the author’s experience. Although he was a practicing professional, Ariston felt nothing but despair and hopelessness when his wives suffered from this disease. This is when the lack of treatment hit him, and reality came pouring down on him, ice-cold.

His experience can seem ironic. After all, he was a doctor, and his book talked about the time he lost his loved ones because of an illness. What should’ve been something individuals like him help others recover became the cause of his pain. He has written this book to illuminate what could help alleviate the pain others could experience. It discusses what he supposes is the apparent cure for cancer, which revolves around strengthening the immune system.

Like Ariston, how do doctors cope with death?

When they’re exposed to patients every day, it can be easy to conclude that these professionals must’ve been accustomed to the sight of death. They must’ve long dissociated with seeing people flat-lining. But the truth is even doctors will have a hard time dealing with it. Simply because they’re constantly exposed to this concept doesn’t mean they will be used to brushing death off.

Often, It’s The Opposite: Death Weighing Them Down

Death is an inevitable part of being a doctor. With hundreds of patients rushing in, a fraction of them may unfortunately not be able to leave the hospital’s premises. When this happens, how do doctors cope with death? Their regular exposure won’t leave them numb to seeing people, individuals they once interacted with, pass away. This experience will leave a mark on their hearts.

Doctors are taught to be compassionate. This is primarily why doctors are willing to spend hours and days helping others. However, in being compassionate, they may also be susceptible to empathy and attachment. While they know getting close and growing fond of their patients is unhealthy, some doctors can’t help but allow their hearts to soften and develop friendships with them.

This Is When Situations Get Tough

After all, doctors cope with death more quickly when they’re detached. This doesn’t mean they don’t have to care about their patients or treat them any less than people. But instead, this means they shouldn’t allow themselves to care for and be genuinely attached to these individuals. This is why the medical field can be emotionally punishing. It encourages people to connect and be compassionate to their fellow people. But at the same time, this empathy shouldn’t cross the line.

For doctors to cope with death more easily, they must remember that it’s their job. It can be a harsh reality to accept. But death will forever be engrained in their career. They can’t prevent this from happening. Hence, they shouldn’t allow it to weigh them down for long. Doctors can grieve. They can mourn their patients, but this shouldn’t influence how they interact with their other patients.

Most importantly, doctors help others. But they must also be willing to accept this help. When they’re grieving about patient loss, they must be open to working with a professional to process their feelings better and healthier. This is something they must learn to juggle.


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