Playing Doctor

Initial Visit?

Tuesday, September 6

Time To Cut Back the Mulgrew

I’m afraid I’ve allowed things to back up.

My stack of unread medical journals has produced offspring and there are now three stacks in the corner, taunting me. I have an unwritten grant proposal in the lower left-hand corner of my desktop. In-service exam reviews have not been reviewed. Fellowships applications have not been filled out. Friends have been ignored. I haven’t swept in months.

In short, I have become a sloth.

So I’m putting Playing Doctor on a late-summer hiatus. I’m taking the rest of September off. I’m going to clear my desk, hang with people, and recharge my noggin.

But I suppose I need some sort of season-end cliff-hanger, something to leave you wondering who will survive, what changes you can expect next season, what turns the stories might take.

So here’s a little season wrap-up for the blog and what happens next:

I’ve established myself as The Good Doctor, albeit with a fucked-up social life, letting the hubris build to a gravity inducing mass.

This fall, I’ll be feeling gravity’s pull and taking that fall...

Thursday, September 1

Immortality, risk : benefit


We all enjoy things that carry a potential price tag on our health. We justify these enjoyments by laughing and (mis)quoting Ecclesiastes ‘eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.’ And yet, we can be so critical of the dangerous enjoyments of others that we do not share.

The promiscuous judge smokers. Smokers judge overeaters. Overeaters judge motorcyclists. All have their entailed risks, all have their entailed pleasures. All the pleasures outweigh the perceived risks for those that partake in them.

There are those whose pleasure results directly from the risk itself: skydivers, bungee-jumpers, and shark divers, for example. Though I find such frivolous risk-taking a symptom of a pedestrian life, I’ll admit that when I slide my fingers between the ribs of a patient with hepatitis C and HIV, insert a chest tube, and withdraw my hand intact, the thrill is nearly palpable. The sense of invulnerability you feel from making it unscathed from such a danger is rather pleasurable. ‘Look at what I can do,’ my id screams at my ego, ‘pussy!’


When patients come to see me, they will sometmes confess that they are able to eat a low-salt diet, except for barbeque; that they are good with their diabetic diet, except for grapes; that they take their medications, except the one that makes them feel bloated.

It’s then that we have a conversation.

The goal for my patients is not ascetic immortality. All of my patients—and myself—will eventually die. It’s my goal to help them live a healthy life for as long as possible, minimize risks that do not enrich their lives, and encourage things that will keep them active and interested in life. If their lives are cut short by their enjoyment of life, so be it. As long as they understand the risks, they are free to live life on their terms. That’s my goal as their physician.

By my recollection, the only two people who escaped death were Elijah and Jacob, and medicine didn’t have any role in that. We can offer no salvation. The best we can offer is a stall—a brief reprieve to enjoy life—before returning to the ground.

Medical Records

Season Three

Season Two

Season One