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Eyewitness in Erewhon Academic Hospital
  1. I de Beaufort,
  2. F Meulenberg
  1. Erasmus MC/University Medical Center, Department of Medical Ethics and Philosophy of Medicine, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Inez de Beaufort, Erasmus MC/University Medical Center, Department of Medical Ethics and Philosophy of Medicine, PO Box 2040, NL - 3000 CA Rotterdam, The Netherlands; i.debeaufort{at}

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Part 4: Ethics in the time of cholera

Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker! (From Die Hard)

Apparently Ishmael Geelani doesn’t only know modern music, but also the American folk traditionals, because softly but audibly he sings Mississippi John Hurt’s version of the lullaby C-h-i-c-k-e-n. It shows how accurately he senses the atmosphere in the department, because the tension is huge, though it all started with a hearty laugh. Mrs Lee, admitted the day before with a high fever, kept crying, “My chickens, my chickens, what is going to happen to my chickens?” Her cry for help within no time was the running gag in the department. When someone asked a question there was increasingly a chance of getting the answer, “Good question, but what’s going to happen to my chickens?”

Sarah examines Mrs Lee for the third time. She doesn’t know why, precisely—probably because she can’t live with fever of unknown origin. No, not acceptable for Sarah. Mrs Lee is in a worse condition than the day before, the fever still very high despite the high doses of antibiotics that had been administered immediately. Her cough is deeper and more rasping. She looks grey and is clearly very uncomfortable.

“How are you feeling today?”

“Not good, doctor. I can hardly breathe and my throat hurts. I keep on drinking water.”

Sarah throws the spatula in the paper basket.

“My limbs feel like lead … such a muscle ache. Can you do me a favour, doctor, and call my neighbour Mr Cath. He’s supposed to take care of my chickens. He should take care that the mice don’t steal their eggs. They lay less and less these days. He’s so nice, but whether he’s dependable or …

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  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and Peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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