Essay: The Only Acceptable Option

Posted by on Jun 11, 2016 in Bereavement, Blog, Cancer, Essays | No Comments
Essay:  The Only Acceptable Option

Joe and his wife, Carla, talked about it when she got the news – she didn’t want chemo. She didn’t want chemicals to destroy her body. She made that clear to Joe. Her father went through something awful when he got cancer and she just didn’t believe in those poisons. And they had done their […]

The Independent Autopsy or Private Autopsy – and Your Rights

Posted by on Sep 1, 2015 in Bereavement, Blog, Education, Essays | No Comments
The Independent Autopsy or Private Autopsy – and Your Rights

Most people understand that autopsies can be performed by the hospital or by the coroner (or medical examiner). In the first instance, the usual story is that the patient has died in the hospital. Then the hospital (or health care provider) may ask the family to authorize an autopsy. The purpose of the autopsy is […]

The Autopsy: An Emotional Choice

Posted by on Jul 22, 2015 in Bereavement, Blog, Essays | No Comments
The Autopsy:  An Emotional Choice

For the family, requesting an autopsy is always an emotional choice. I don’t mean that the family is always upset when they request an autopsy. I mean that the request is always based on some emotional need for closure. This is in some ways different from what motivates physicians and hospitals to request autopsies (although […]

Loss Twice: Death in the Hospital

Posted by on Jul 18, 2015 in Bereavement, Blog, Essays | No Comments
Loss Twice:  Death in the Hospital

The hospital is a paradox. Even for a long stay, many relationships can be fleeting: Who is the phlebotomist today? What resident will be seeing me? Patients (and their families) may wonder these and other like questions. If the hospital experience has lasted months — with surgeries, ICU stays, complications, and medical twists and turns […]

Meeting the Man on the Table

Posted by on Jun 17, 2015 in Blog, Cancer, Essays | No Comments
Meeting the Man on the Table

In May I autopsied a man I had gotten to know. He came to the autopsy table more rapidly than usual after he died, because the autopsy was for cancer research. Joseph (yes, not his real name) was a “tumor donor.” Tumor chemistry is unforgiving and ephemeral — the mysteries fly away unchasable unless the […]

Poem – Mariner

Posted by on Mar 21, 2015 in Blog, Essays, Fiction/Poetry | No Comments
Poem – Mariner

Journal of the American Medical Association Vol. 313 No. 11 (2015) p. 1171 Entering the body for an autopsy is a precise, medical procedure with scientific purpose. Nonetheless, the soul and spirit of this profound human experience float in the air of the autopsy suite. Journey into the body and into harrowing waters with Dr. […]

What’s Wrong with You – Fiction

Posted by on Aug 6, 2014 in Blog, Essays, Fiction/Poetry | No Comments
What’s Wrong with You – Fiction

What’s Wrong with You by Ben Margolis Ars Medica Vol 10, No. 1 (2014), p. 142-146 Author’s note: caution, graphic content   “What’s wrong wit’ you?” asked the shopkeeper. “Ain’t nothin’ wrong with me,” scowled Mr. Jackson as a flap of skin unfolded across his chest. Hinged at the side like an armoire door to […]

Reflections on an Autopsy Seminar

Posted by on Jul 25, 2014 in Blog, Essays | No Comments

“Was that a one-glass slide? Or a two-glass slide?” I called over to an attendee, gently teasing, as I advanced to the next photo in my presentation. He was all but hiding in the corner. This was the one who had brought in a bottle of wine to our cabaret-style theater where we were holding […]

Poem: Invitation

Posted by on Jul 25, 2014 in Blog, Essays, Fiction/Poetry | No Comments

Med Humanities (British Medical Journal) 2013;39:72 doi:10.1136/medhum-2012-010312 Invitation Ben Margolis Come. I will show you grief. Look here. You want to see? The open refrigerator door frames the lovers. Just this way. Follow me. We’re almost there. You will stand with me by the side. You will have to look down—it’s private.