Would you choose heaven over hospital?

In the dark lecture room, I watched the neurologist’s shadow flicker across the only source of light — a projection of the New York City subway map. He pointed at Times Square station. If the subway system were a brainstem, then Times Square would be the pons, transporting vital signals like breathing, speaking, and swallowing.

He likened the station’s abrupt destruction to a stroke producing locked-in syndrome. Writer Jean-Dominique Bauby describes the condition in his memoir, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly:

“Paralyzed from head to toe, the patient, his mind intact, is imprisoned inside his own body, unable to speak or move. In my case, blinking my left eyelid is my only means of communication.”

Turning toward his medical student audience, the neurologist asked, “Would you choose to live or die if you had locked-in syndrome? If you’d rather live, raise your hand.”


Nicki Egan:
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