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Editor's Commentary on The Undead

 , February 01, 2019

Fitzgerald's artfully crafted essay, "The Undead" is a study of hazy boundaries, unexpected dichotomies, and the threshold between light and dark, finality and fluidity. Through her lens, we rediscover death as a diagnosis that is both absolute and reversible, obvious and ambiguous. The narrator is, herself, on a threshold of sorts. She is outwardly more confident and experienced than her wide-eyed intern, but inwardly just as self-doubting and apprehensive as he is. As physicians, part of the hidden curriculum of our training is learning to portray confidence in our diagnoses as a means of gaining trust from our patients and their loved ones. In the 20th century, we are armed with a myriad of lab and diagnostic tests to bolster our conclusions. Still, the more technology and life-prolonging capabilities that we have, the more complicated and cautious our definition of death becomes. Fitzgerald asks us to consider whether terms liked "saved by the bell" and "the graveyard shift" apply just as much today as they did during the period in which they first arose. In the end, we are still forced to rely on the most basic tools of observation, our five senses.

Sadaf Qureshi