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Editor's Commentary on 'Your Scan Results'

 , February 28, 2014

"The results of your scan aren't back yet." In this poem by Penny Shutt, we hear the poet echo words that many of us have said in the past, words that are "flimsy as the paper that I fold with unshaking hands". Sometimes delaying disclosure of a diagnosis is simply escapist, but at other times, it may be the best option. It may not be the appropriate time, or the appropriate setting, or we are not the appropriate person to break the news. It is certainly not the role of the overnight intern to start dispensing life altering diagnoses on a whim. Regardless, there can be significant guilt and unease with telling these white lies. We are all taught to tell the truth from birth on, but at times we are confronted with the necessity of temporary omissions. To ease the burden, we might even tell minimal  truths: The official read is not yet back; I have not seen all the results yet; We want to talk with the specialists first so we interpret the results correctly. Simple phrases that alleviate some of the guilt but leave the patient in limbo. This poem pulls us readers down the ambiguous avenue of breaking bad news, leaving us with important questions that remain unanswered.

With this week’s publication of “Your Scan Results” by Penny Shutt, we introduce a new feature of paired artwork. Shutt’s poem is accompanied by a painting from Sohi Mistry, JGIM web edition’s new “Liaison for the Arts.” The painting was crafted specifically for the poem, representing Sohi’s internalization and interpretation. The contrast in colors and the position of the bodies makes palpable the sense of separation. There is a sternness to the patient’s face, a knowing glare. The physician has her back turned, her eyes guiltily glance at the folded paper in her hands. She shields the patient from the illumination, the light that neither can bear. She wonders when an omission becomes a lie.


This is our first pairing of art and writing in our section and we are very pleased with the product. We will pair several more Living Hand publications with new works of art by Sohi in the future. Additionally, we will continue to accept submissions of original, unpublished artwork. Stay tuned for more fantastic work.


Bryan Sisk, MD
Deputy Editor, The Living Hand