The medical team hung back in the hallway before entering the patient’s room. The intern had just presented the case — a 50-year-old man who’d never seen a doctor until three months before, when he noticed blood in his stool. It turned out he had extensive colon cancer that had already spread to the liver and lungs. The man, Mr. M, was now admitted for his second cycle of chemotherapy.
“Nothing much for us to do,” the intern said grimly. I understood her unease, but as the attending physician, I couldn’t second her opinion. “There’s always something for us to do,” I told the team gamely. Inside, though, as we gathered in a semicircle around the bed, I doubted my words.