A Philosophical Death

It is sometimes forgotten that one of the most important goals of medicine is to help people achieve a good death. It is here that medicine and philosophy intersect. After all, what is philosophy if not the search for how to live a good life and how to face death? Perhaps it should come as no surprise that among the great philosophers there have been medical doctors such as Avicenna and John Locke.

Like other departments of philosophy, medicine began with an age of wonder. The accidents of disease and the features of death aroused surprise and stimulated interest, and a beginning was made when man first asked in astonishment. Why should these things be?

Osler. The Evolution of Internal Medicine. 1907

When pondering death I sometimes wonder how the great philosophers faced death, and what we the living might learn from them…

We need wonder no more.

Listen to ‘From Cow Dung to Poison: A History of Philosopher’s Deaths’, an excerpt of a longer talk by Simon Critchley titled ‘To Philosophize is to Learn How to Die

Tell them I had a wonderful life.

– the last words of the perennially troubled Ludwig Wittengenstein

Don’t eat that…

– the last words Denis Diderot’s wife spoke to him before he died while eating an apricot.

I also recommend reading Richard Smith’s BMJ blog post: Dead Philosophers make you laugh and Simon Critchley’s top 10 philosophers’ deaths

Chris is an Intensivist and ECMO specialist at the Alfred ICU in Melbourne. He is also a Clinical Adjunct Associate Professor at Monash University. He is a co-founder of the Australia and New Zealand Clinician Educator Network (ANZCEN) and is the Lead for the ANZCEN Clinician Educator Incubator programme. He is on the Board of Directors for the Intensive Care Foundation and is a First Part Examiner for the College of Intensive Care Medicine. He is an internationally recognised Clinician Educator with a passion for helping clinicians learn and for improving the clinical performance of individuals and collectives.

After finishing his medical degree at the University of Auckland, he continued post-graduate training in New Zealand as well as Australia’s Northern Territory, Perth and Melbourne. He has completed fellowship training in both intensive care medicine and emergency medicine, as well as post-graduate training in biochemistry, clinical toxicology, clinical epidemiology, and health professional education.

He is actively involved in in using translational simulation to improve patient care and the design of processes and systems at Alfred Health. He coordinates the Alfred ICU’s education and simulation programmes and runs the unit’s education website, INTENSIVE.  He created the ‘Critically Ill Airway’ course and teaches on numerous courses around the world. He is one of the founders of the FOAM movement (Free Open-Access Medical education) and is co-creator of litfl.com, the RAGE podcast, the Resuscitology course, and the SMACC conference.

His one great achievement is being the father of three amazing children.

On Twitter, he is @precordialthump.

| INTENSIVE | RAGE | Resuscitology | SMACC

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