Margaret Edson Themes

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Medical commentators on the play W;t by Margaret Edson, have tended to highlight the play's medical themes in the hope that this will help to improve the care of the dying. In this essay, the author argues that a close reading of the play suggests an alternative approach. This approach would require physicians to become personally engaged with the play's broad underlying themes, in particular the themes of dignity, relationship, and forgiveness. Physicians who do this might be able to undergo the sort of personal transformation that could allow them to relate to dying patients more fully as fellow human beings. Such a reaction to the play by physicians might truly and radically improve the care of the dying. The play W;t by Margaret Edson…show more content…
And it is only when doctors learn this message that they will learn anything really useful from this play. The doctors portrayed in W;t do not seem to appreciate this message, and doctors who see or read the play may also fail to appreciate it. And this, in the graphic words of the play, would be another “doctor fuckup” (p 85). Just as the play ends in a mistake, there is a danger that our professional reaction to the play will be a mistake. We may find ourselves, like the house officers at the end of the play, “coding a No-Code.” And the only way the play can teach us how not to make such a mistake is if we realize that the point of the play has both nothing and everything to do with learning how not to make mistakes. “Herein lies the paradox. John Donne would revel in it.” (p 47) Among W;t's many themes, intended for all who see or read it, forgiveness, relationship, and dignity are central. Physicians wishing to learn from the play would do well to understand these themes. In this brief article, I will address each of these themes in turn, illustrating each with text from the play. I will then suggest some lessons that clinicians can draw from the play, once they have appreciated that its thematic scope is far wider than
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