"In many autopsy rooms there is a statement in Latin that says something like, “This is a morgue, the place where death teaches or helps those that are still alive.”  And that’s exactly what came to my mind -- the contribution this little baby...was making to her family and to humankind by letting us, with her personal experience (and there is nothing more personal than death) understand a disease process that can protect not only her family but many others, was huge"
Miguel Reyes-Múgica (Mexico and USA)

  More quotes on Life, death and the hereafter

Many interviewees say that the regular proximity of death and dying has heightened their awareness of the fragility of life.  Some people who have religious faith or spiritual beliefs have not found that their engagement with science has in any way challenged their beliefs.

Medicine, having respect for people, fits into Buddhist philosophy very wellMaesha Deheragoda, for example, explains:  “My family are Buddhist, and that has informed my philosophy throughout my life... We don’t really have a God or anything like that.  It’s really about living your life in a good way, not harming other people by your actions.  So I think medicine, having respect for people, fits into Buddhist philosophy very well.  So I don’t really have any clashes in that way.”

Others have found that the nature of their work has led them to question the whole concept of religious faith. “You see a lot of people die from a lot of diseases, and it doesn't actually encourage belief in a benevolent being...” says Nicholas Wright.  For some people, the conclusion is that there are scientific answers for all life’s mysteries.  Jeffery Taubenberger, for example, says: “I fully believe there is a molecular basis for everything we see... So I have…faith that eventually science will be able to explain a lot of things.”

I fully believe there is a molecular basis for everything we seeA few – most notably Francisco González-Crussí -- muse on the topic in some depth.  He  reflects upon what he has learned from working with the dead.  In his view it gives one more than a purely intellectual understanding of death; it is “the understanding that touches the heart.”  As he says, “It perhaps gives me a greater sense of the fragility of life…  But having said that, I, like every human being, tend to forget about it!”

He expands up how, while performing autopsies, he has always been conscious of the story behind the medical facts: “If you really were going to write a full report about the cause of death, it would be like the novels of the seventeenth century.” This sensitivity to the bigger picture has led him to write several celebrated volumes of essays ranging over such topics as birth, death, love and medicine.

Key interviewees: 
Francisco González-Crussí, Kumarasen Cooper, Miguel Reyes-Múgica, Paola Domizio, Jeffery Taubenberger

See also:
Autopsy

 

QUOTES

Jeffrey TaubenbergerI have this hope that you can actually find basic mechanisms for how things work. I strongly believe that -- especially in the biological system, as complex as they are -- things happen for very specific reasons that can be explained, that can be elucidated... I’m fully aware of how complicated things are, but I fully believe there is a molecular basis for everything we see and that it could actually be worked out. So I have faith. That’s sort of what keeps me going; it’s faith that eventually science will be able to explain a lot of things, and that will be enormously helpful in terms of practical applications in medicine...
 - Jeffery Taubenberger (USA)

Paola DomizioI personally don't think [religion and science] are completely incompatible... Because I'm a scientist I like to find reasons for things -- scientists do want to know why things are there, why things are happening, and it's the same for me. I can't see any reason for us having developed other than that there is somewhere a god, and there is somewhere a separate life on a separate sphere.  Perhaps not as we know it, but in some way that gives a purpose to our life on earth.
 - Paola Domizio (UK)

Jeffrey TaubenbergerI do strongly believe there is a definitive sort of programmatic basis for everything and that we could work it out. [But that] doesn’t rule out religion at all.
 - Jeffery Taubenberger (USA)



Francisco Gonzáles-CrussíThe contemplation of death, the spectacle of the cadaver being opened at dissection, is truly an important experience… When you actually look at it, look at the evisceration of a cadaver, it's like somebody grabbed you by the hair and dragged you to contemplate the spectacle of your own dissolution. Because you can't help but say, ‘We are all made of that stuff… All that entanglement of cogs and wheels that I see, that's the same as I have here [he touches his own body], and now that is just a lump, an inactive mass of proteins in decomposition already. That's going to happen to me too.’ And so to actually see it, then you understand it in an affective way – it's in the realm of the emotions that you are now, the understanding that touches the heart. The other was purely intellectual.
 - Francisco González-Crussí (Mexico and USA)

Miguel Reyes-MúgicaIn many autopsy rooms there is a statement in Latin that says something like, “This is a morgue, the place where death teaches or helps those that are still alive.”  And that’s exactly what came to my mind -- the contribution this little baby...was making to her family and to humankind by letting us, with her personal experience (and there is nothing more personal than death) understand a disease process that can protect not only her family but many others, was huge.
 - Miguel Reyes-Múgica (Mexico and USA) 

Francisco Gonzáles-CrussíWhen I am [doing an autopsy] I have to confine myself to the purely medical aspects of the case. But I could never, in the back of my mind, not think of the circumstances that surround that particular individual, that person. That's probably one of the reasons that led me to write my essays… The pathologist is supposed to find the cause of death. But the cause of death is such a broad thing that what we actually look at is just a very small part of that enormous puzzle, which is the immediate, pathophysiological mechanism of death. Period. But behind that there are all kinds of social circumstances, cultural circumstances.
 - Francisco González-Crussí (Mexico and USA)

James IronsideI think one’s beliefs – such beliefs as I have – are based on other things. And other things bring you to think of the meaning of life and death. Music is one of them.
 - James Ironside (UK)



Miguel Reyes-MúgicaFrequently I have situations in which I come to see a case where the clinicians want to know what happened, and they have spent weeks -- sometimes months -- treating a patient with different types of complications. They know all these parameters -- respiratory, cardiac and many others -- and they are following those and they see the curve of the progress up…down etc, and then finally when the patient dies they come to me and say, “What happened? We don’t understand how this patient died.” And my answer in several of those situations has been, “Well, I can’t understand how this patient lived.” They lose track of what life is all about.
 - Miguel Reyes-Múgica (Mexico and USA) 

There are no articles in this category. If subcategories display on this page, they may have articles.

Copyright © 2019 | Conversations with Pathologists. All Rights Reserved. Design by MK Digital

Please publish modules in offcanvas position.