The son, quiet for most of the meeting, broke the silence and, with a hint of anger and a big dollop of frustration, asked the one question I had dreaded being asked the most: “Doc, give it to me straight. If this were your mother, what would you do?”
While the patient-doctor interaction varies widely across cultures and continents, this question seems to be a universal constant. As a medical student in Pakistan, I had heard it often, and even after hours of preparation, never felt prepared to answer. As a wobbly newcomer to clinical medicine, it left me feeling vulnerable and violated.