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Schrödinger’s CT

Barry Saver

To be
And not to be…
Indeterminacy
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