Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

Throw The Heart Machine Out The Window


In serving patients, it is sometimes best just to listen, show respect, and withhold judgement.     

“I don’t want the heart machine. When Lord decides the time for my heart to stop, that’s my time to die. You can take that machine and throw it out the window. I’m not a guinea pig,” my patient said. 


I became defensive. I wanted to defend artificial hearts and the years of scientific work of more than a generation that went in this invention, the diligence and toiling of physicians, nurses, and engineers.  


I held my patient’s righteousness with compassion. “Let’s just keep it for others who may want it,” I said. 


“Those people don’t trust God and are afraid to die. I buried my mother two days before Christmas, and she lived with the same heart condition I got. She died in peace. We were born wise and raised wise with the Lord.” 


I simply listened. Sometimes the best tool that a clinician has is the courage to put away all the tools and instead hold the space with attentive listening.  







This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not necessarily represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.