For a Sunset

Author Dr. Ashley Hill

At the time, I was doing a rotation in a hospital specialized in cancer.

A woman in her 30s arrived with end-stage cervical cancer (she had never been screened / smeared) and would almost certainly die in a few days due to kidney failure. The day after she was admitted, she and her husband asked me if they could go to the beach, about an hour away, for “one last sunset”. I said yes. The nurse in charge told me that it was against the policy of the hospital and that I could be in a difficult situation.

I said yes nonetheless, and after the patient’s husband took her out, I put a “Patient Sleeping – Do Not Go In” sign on the door and I explicitly asked the nurses to not disturb them. The nurses at this hospital were exceptional, and I’m sure they knew everything, but they pretended not to notice anything.

A few hours later, I received a call: the husband told me that they had just watched an incredible sunset and that they were grateful to have watched this last sunset together. While I was crying, a nurse came and whispered in my ear, “You did the right thing.” I do not think I would have been fired, but I would have no doubt be seriously reprimanded.

Frankly, it would have been worth it. She and her husband quietly returned to the room right after, and she died two days later.

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