“It’s my life; why won’t you just let me die?” We had spent much time together during the weeks on my psychiatry rotation and had grown fairly close. Yet it wasn’t our bond that made her words so hard to hear. It was because she wasn’t dying; she was depressed.
Of course, at the time, none of my supervising psychiatric physicians acceded to her wish to end her life. On the contrary, they worked hard to help her see the value in her life with a combination of psychotherapy, counseling and medication.
Current practice demands that patients get such care — even if they refuse. One of my professors described a case where she had to “forcefully admit” a patient who had expressed the desire to kill herself. That patient eventually expressed her gratitude — but only months afterward. And in fact, even in my brief rotation, there were moments where my patient and I spoke of her dreams, goals, and hopes upon leaving the hospital.