When she answered the phone, I summarized my essay. A lot of people might learn from it, I replied—doctors, patients, family members. More troubling, perhaps, is my presumption that I’m safe from offending or angering a patient because many of the people I write about are long dead or unlikely to come across my essays.
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I told them that I shared the impulse to capture these stories in bracing, telling words.
Then I urged them to think about power in the doctor-patient relationship, and whether asking for permission to share a story in a personal essay is enough to remedy the moral ambiguity.
And yet I wasn’t convinced, so I put the story away.
Two years later, I read it again and decided to contact the ex-wife one more time.