Textual Analysis: First, Do No Harm
Patrick Dismuke was a young African American boy, at the age of fifteen when the story starts, and a regular patient at Hermann Hospital. Patrick was born with a severe case of Hirschsprung’s disease, a disorder of the digestive tract, and was unable to digest his food. Throughout Patrick’s life, he spent more days in the hospital than out and came to be quite comfortable with the environment and staff at Hermann. Due to his disease his only way of nutrition was through a feeding tube, unfortunately these tubes often got infected. Since Patrick’s immune system was also weak, the infections were almost as bad as the disease itself. The doctors were forced to put the boy through surgery multiple times to replace infected tubes, each time making him weaker and bringing him closer to death. Once the he became too weak for the surgeries, the doctors were faced with a dilemma- to do surgery or not? The surgery to place a new tube directly into his heart would be risky and potentially kill him, but if the surgery did not occur, the infection would slowly destroy his body and block the tube causing him to starve to death. Before any decisions could be made, the doctors needed to consult the patients mother, Oria Dismuke, was a single mother who worked extensive hours at whatever jobs she could find sometimes working as many as three at a time. Oria was a quiet and didn’t have much to say about her opinion, it’s not that she didn’t care; she was just exhausted and wanted her son to be both happy and comfortable. Along with the mother, the doctors also had to meet with a hospital ethics committee before taking action. The committee met many times throughout the book and made many contradictory decisions depending on his progress at the time of the meeting. First, the committee decides to make Patrick DNR but he began to get better, so after consulting him, they ended up doing another risky surgery. The committee...
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