Last week, the patient's daughter mentioned to me that she had an important business trip coming up, and wanted to know if I thought she needed to make plans to reschedule. I said it's hard to predict these things, but at that moment he seemed stable, so there was reason to think that things might not be happening immediately, and there was a decent chance the trip would be OK.
Of course, she left on Monday and almost immediately, things became much less stable. She had said I should call if anything changes.
So I called. And I said, again, it's hard to predict these things, but it's possible that he only has another day or so at this point, and if she wanted to make sure to see him before he dies, she may need to cut her trip short.
"You really think I have to?"
"I don't want to pretend I know more than I do. It's possible he will rally again and make it through the week, but it's also quite possible he won't."
"You're not telling me enough to make this decision."
"If it were me, I'd come back as soon as I could."
"But he might not die."
"Okay, I'm coming back. But my boss is going to throw a fit if my father's still alive on Friday."
"Sounds like a great boss."
"You think you could write me a note saying he died even if he doesn't?"
I'm seriously contemplating writing the note.