Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 93–95 | Cite as

Caring for Ivan Ilyich

  • Blake Charlton
  • Abraham VergheseEmail author
Healing Arts


For over a century, Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilych has been one of the most influential examinations of how we come to terms with our own mortality. Of the many who care for Ivan Ilych, only the uneducated peasant, Gerasim, is able to help him find meaning and resolution before death. An excerpt that describes Gerasim’s key interaction with Ivan Ilych is provided. Analysis of the text reveals how cultural values may hinder a patient’s ability to confront mortality and how unique social barriers inhibit different caretakers’ ability to care for a dying patient.


dying medical education caretakers empathy 


Conflict of Interest

None disclosed.

Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Internal MedicineStanford University School of MedicineStanfordUSA
  2. 2.Department of Internal MedicineStanford UniversityStanfordUSA

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