The scene looks like teaching rounds in the intensive care unit of any university hospital. On closer inspection, it reveals unique features.
Attending physician, house officers, and students stand at the bedside of a critically ill, comatose, elderly man. The attending physician asks a resident physician: "Are you comfortable with our decision regarding surgery? Do you know anything of the patient's feelings about 'medical heroics' before he became unresponsive? What other issues do we need to discuss?"
The conversation then shifts to hyponatremia and hyperglycemia; this teacher is equally facile with these more concrete subjects. She is Christine K. Cassel, MD, associate professor of medicine and chief, section of general internal medicine, at the Pritzker School of Medicine, University of Chicago.
In addition to her internal medicine responsibilities, Cassel serves on the faculty of the university's Center for Clinical Medical Ethics, headed by Mark Siegler, MD, an Editorial Board member