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Schrödinger’s CT

Barry Saver

To be
And not to be…
May not be
So bad

Without this scan
We won’t know
If you’re living
Like the rest of us
Or dying
On a more compressed schedule

Once it’s done
You’ll be a zero or a one

Are you sure you want to know?

About the poet:

Barry Saver is a family physician, primary-care researcher and teacher at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester.

About the poem:

“The poem derives from one of the core principles I try to teach students and residents and to use in my own practice: ‘Don’t ask the question if you don’t want to know the answer.’ I frequently struggle to get patients and learners to understand the very real harms that can come from testing. At some level, the poem was seeded by my personal experience, as a resident, of being suspended in doubt while awaiting the results of a needle biopsy–wanting to know exactly when the results might be ready, but not being so sure that I wanted them if they were bad. The poem likely also reflects my having spent several years studying chemistry, including quantum mechanics, in graduate school before entering medical school.”

Poetry Editors:

Johanna Shapiro and Judy Schaefer