While reading this book in a La Crosse, Wisconsin hotel (where the producers were staying during a shoot at Gundersen Health System) an unusual wave of energy flowed over Michael Bernhagen’s body. The hair on his arms and neck stood up and he later discovered that the key cards to his room had demagnetized.
On the surface, it might appear that Dr. Hamilton is part of the proverbial “problem”. That is, he’s just another in a long line of specialists who don’t know how to care for dying people well. In fact, some experts in the field of hospice and palliative medicine expressed concern that this story was included in the film because they feared it might lead other specialists to avoid the end-of-life conversation.
But, if you listen carefully to his words and watch his eyes you’ll learn an important lesson – doctors suffer too.
During their on-camera interview, it became clear to the producers that, years later, Dr. Hamilton is still trying to reconcile what happened to his patient. Allan fought this battle alone and, in many ways, blames himself for Donald’s death and still carries a significant emotional burden.
Therefore, the ultimate question is this – did Dr. Hamilton really fail the patient or did the medical system fail to give Dr. Hamilton the skills and support he and Donald needed to cope?