Fear of Abandonment

Daniel Sulmasy (then head of the Bioethics Institute of New York Medical College) made an interesting discovery while observing dying patients in a hospital. He aimed cameras at the doorways of terminally ill patients and tracked the number of minutes they spent alone. He said, “More than eighteen hours a day, there was no one in the room.”

Nurses checked on patients dozens of times during the day for no more than two minutes at a time, and doctors averaged three visits a day for three minutes each. Visits from family members averaged twenty-four minutes per day and were the only visits that were likely to last over five minutes. Sulmasy said that patients who are terminally ill list isolation and abandonment as their biggest fears, yet according to his research, that is what they often experience.

Source: The American Journal of Medicine, October 1, 2001

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