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Oedipus and the Coronavirus Pandemic

Educational Objective
To understand how literature reminds us that medical care has room for compassion and love
1 Credit CME

Last week I faced the task of telling brand-new parents that their 2-lb premature son needed emergency surgery. The conversation was all the more difficult because, surgery or no surgery, odds were he would die. They agreed to the procedure with one request: that we allow his grandparents and uncles the chance to meet him first. They didn’t want their son to die alone.

Ordinarily, I could facilitate such a reasonable request. Even in normal times, the hospital isolates patients from home, family, and community, so this seemed like a small sliver of grace. Yet even this was now precluded; in response to the ongoing pandemic, our hospital has instituted a necessarily stringent visitor policy.

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CME Disclosure Statement: Unless noted, all individuals in control of content reported no relevant financial relationships. If applicable, all relevant financial relationships have been mitigated.

Article Information

Corresponding Author: Ryan M. Antiel, MD, MSME, Division of Pediatric Surgery, Department of Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine, One Children’s Place, St Louis, MO 63110 (ryan.antiel@wustl.edu).

Published Online: May 21, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.8594

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.

References
1.
Berry  W .  Another Turn of the Crank: Essays. Counterpoint; 1995.
2.
Sophocles. Oedipus the King. In: Grene  D , Lattimore  R , Griffith  M , Most  GW , trans, eds.  Sophocles I. 3rd ed. University of Chicago Press; 1991:73-142.
3.
Galea  S , Merchant  RM , Lurie  N .  The mental health consequences of COVID-19 and physical distancing: the need for prevention and early intervention.   JAMA Intern Med. Published online April 10, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.1562PubMedGoogle Scholar
4.
Sophocles. Oedipus at Colonus. In: Grene  D , Lattimore  R , Griffith  M , Most  GW , trans, eds.  Sophocles I. 3rd ed. University of Chicago Press; 1991:145-224.
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