The first time I was in an intensive care unit as a medical student, I wondered if I should pray. The patient was unconscious. A tube secured in his mouth connected him to a ventilator, a machine that breathed for him. He was covered by a smooth, white sheet that had been folded over just below his neck.

One of my medical school professors had brought several of us to the ICU to learn about lung physiology and the workings of the ventilator. I had never seen anyone in this condition, suspended in the netherworld between the living and the dead.

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