Feb 15 2013

Doctor’s Handwritten Letter to Patient’s Family Goes Viral

Published by at 5:41 pm under Healthcare Reform

A doctor’s hand-written (and yes, legible) letter to his patient’s husband was shared on the Internet and viewed over 2 million times. It speaks for itself.

Dear Mr. (removed),

I am the Emergency Medicine physician who treated your wife Mrs (removed) last Sunday in the Emergency Department at (hospital). I learned only yesterday about her passing away and wanted to write to you to express my sadness. In my twenty years as a doctor in the Emergency Room, I have never written to a patient or a family member, as our encounters are typically hurried and do not always allow for more personal interaction.

However, in your case, I felt a special connection to your wife (removed), who was so engaging and cheerful in spite of her illness and trouble breathing. I was also touched by the fact that you seemed to be a very loving couple. You were highly supportive of her, asking the right questions with calm, care and concern. From my experience as a physician, I find that the love and support of a spouse or a family member is the most soothing gift, bringing peace and serenity to those critically ill.

I am sorry for your loss and I hope you can find comfort in the memory of your wife’s great spirit and of your loving bond. My heartfelt condolences go out to you and your family.

(removed), MD

The patient’s son posted the letter on Reddit and it was picked up in Yahoo.news. There were over 4,000 comments. Virtually all of the comments were highly supportive of doctors.

Two representative comments:

“Looks like that doctor went into the right profession. We need more compassionate people like him in our health field.”

“It shows the profound impact that a few minutes of kindness and thoughtfulness will do for those suffering. I’m sure this letter helped lessen their grief.”

Doctors do so much to impact patients’ well being. Doctors also step up to help patients and their families in their darkest moments. Most patients and their families appreciate this.

9 responses so far

9 Responses to “Doctor’s Handwritten Letter to Patient’s Family Goes Viral”

  1. Steven Landauon 15 Feb 2013 at 5:59 pm


  2. Michael M. Rosenblatt, DPMon 15 Feb 2013 at 6:09 pm

    I propose that this kind of loving kindness by either an ER or attending physician is NOT uncommon.

    When my father-in-law was in the last stages of kidney disease he presented to the ER with precipitously dropped BP during a dialysis session.

    The ER physician counseled us on whether or not we should end dialysis. She was exceptionally kind, caring and “thanked” us for being attentive and loving children to Dad.

    Dad was a Holocaust survivor. As soon as the funeral director heard this, he volunteered to go “introduce himself” to Dad and take care of his cremation by himself, rather than have a technician do it. He told us he wanted this to be the most professional and dignified service possible.

    My take on this: There are great people everwhere. Period.

    Michael M. Rosenblatt, DPM

  3. alvin reiter m.d.on 15 Feb 2013 at 7:57 pm

    My experience was for the most part totally different.Take a look at my website.This is not a sales pitch but reading my book “Even Doctors Cry” sheds a light on medical errors and treatments that result in thousands of deaths.

  4. Michael M. Rosenblatt, DPMon 15 Feb 2013 at 9:08 pm

    Dr. Reiter, please accept my profound condolences on the loss of your beloved wife. I have not read your book (yet), but I surmise that you were the target of a horrendous and brutal “sham-peer review process.”

    These kinds of inquisitions have driven some doctors to near and actual suicide. I don’t know the details and I could be wrong, but there ARE resources for physicians who face sham peer review (up to and including FBI investigations).

    It’s especially sad that you experienced this in the midst of the most painful personal tragedy.

    We all hope and even pray that cancer treatment will be effective; and that irreversible errors will NOT occur in the process. It is even worse when those errors and omissions are a part of hubris and arrogance of care providers. I make the general assumption that this is exactly what happened to your beloved wife.

    In the case of sham peer review, there is at least one major website (of all things) a podiatrist who specializes with his group of attorneys on fighting this vicious process. Most of his clients are actually allopathic physicians, a few dentists, podiatrists and others.


    Unfortunately, most private practice lawyers are totally inexperienced and unschooled in dealing with sham peer review. They often make basic mistakes in handling them, because they “assume” that the process itself is fair. Instead, it is politically and financially biased, with jealosy, professional arrogance and corruption at the very center.

    I wish you had known about this site and the legal providers who are experienced with this kind of battle.

    Michael M. Rosenblatt, DPM

  5. Dr. Painon 15 Feb 2013 at 9:45 pm

    The doctors handwritten letter to the patient’s husband was superb. I’ve practiced interventional pain management for the past 12 years. Only until recently did I discover the proper way to see diagnose and treat my patients. For me the answer has been to treat all patients as if they were family members. I tell patients that if you were my father, my brother, my sister, my wife, this is what I would do. This is has made the practice of medicine so much simpler and easier for me. I believe it is important to note that when treating family members, I treat them as patients. I have seen other physicians treating friends and family members, while they try to go above and beyond to provide optimal care, I believe the care becomes suboptimal. I’ve had first-hand experience with this when my wife had surgery.

  6. Connieon 15 Feb 2013 at 10:28 pm

    My husband has for years been writing thank you notes, sympathy notes, and get well notes to his patients. This is quite exceptional, but he sincerely feels this is part of his job as a good doctor. Having been in his practice for over 30 years, his habit has never subsided. I commend all physicians for taking this time to realize patients are humans and have feelings. If you don’t have time to write notes, at least showing genuine concern can go a long ways.
    Thanks for sharing and making others aware.

  7. pasuon 15 Feb 2013 at 10:29 pm

    Moe doctors will express their condolences.
    Unfortunately,expressing condolences is considered as a sign of guilt.
    The family is looking to shop to find unscrupulus lawers to file a lawsuitit.

    Malpractice reform is a must at all governmental levels

    President Obama shld consider this as top priority.

  8. Andei Gasic, MDon 15 Feb 2013 at 11:32 pm

    Well spoken words by a physician that finally communicated what often remains silent. To deliver effective care a physician often protects themselves from getting too personal. It is my general practice to assuage a grieving family with a personal communication of ones heartfelt sympathy. I applaud this efforts to bring more compassion into a profession that is being challenged with ever increasing volume of patients and automatization.

  9. Kid Timon 20 Feb 2013 at 3:40 pm

    After having lost my 11 year old son to being hit by a wayward truck on the sidewalk, having to identify my 26 year old brother’s body after he was murdered, and then consoling my hysterical mother just moments after discovering my father died in his sleep overnight, all within just a few months of each other; I can honestly say that the true grieving process can only begin when those entrusted with our care and subsequent departure from this earth, take a very personal path as well as a professional one. If the Emergency room doctors hadn’t consoled me by saying my son’s death was immediate and he did not suffer; my mind would have raced off with every conceivable scenario of pain imaginable. If the Medical Examiner didn’t leave a note of condolence in my brother’s body bag, as well as the respectful way he positioned him after autopsy, we would have never known Medical Examiners can have a heart also. But by not only appearing at the wake for my father but also his funeral and family reception afterwards, did we really understand the true power of the sympathetic heart of a real physician; and how being your doctor even after death could have so much impact. My prayers and thanks go out to all physicians who have the guts to admit they are human, while having the sincere heart to admit their true feelings for their patients.