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

When the end is near 


At the end of life, loved ones often must make difficult decisions. Healthcare professionals can help ease this burden by showing empathy and compassion. 

A father’s determination to save his daughter pushed the boundaries of medical intervention. Day after day, he sat by his daughter Nitya’s bedside in the cardiac intensive care unit. Nitya, unresponsive and on a ventilator, had suffered a devastating brain injury and was nearing brain death. She had received three shocks in the past five days. Her mother, unable to confront the grim reality, stayed home. 


The situation was heartbreaking. The family’s grief was immense, and our options were limited. 


The cardiology fellow offered a quiet but powerful gesture of support. “How can we support you?” she asked, her voice warm and gentle. Amidst the ICU’s silence, these words resonated like a steady heartbeat. They conveyed empathy, compassion and, most importantly, humanity. 


Nitya’s family ultimately made the difficult choice to withdraw ventilator support. “Please step out while the doctors talk about ending life support,” he told his younger daughter. But she stayed by his side, holding in her tears, refusing to leave her father alone in the room.


Decisions about end-of-life care are always weighty and complex. As we navigate these challenging scenarios, maintaining our humanity is essential. Empathy and compassion can ensure that patients and their families receive care and respect during difficult times. Withdrawing life support isn’t just about difficult decisions; it’s about honoring the sanctity of life with compassion and grace. 








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