do no harm

Just as it is irresistible to save a life, it is also very difficult to tell somebody that I cannot save them, especially if the patient is a sick child with desperate parents. The problem is made all the greater if I am not entirely certain. Few people outside medicine realize that what tortures doctors most is uncertainty, rather than the fact they often deal with people who are suffering or who are about to die. It is easy enough to let somebody die if one knows beyond doubt that they cannot be saved – if one is a decent doctor one will be sympathetic, but the situation is clear. This is life, and we all have to die sooner or later. It is when I do not know for certain whether I can help or not, should help or not, that things become so difficult. – Do No Harm, Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh

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