Regional doctor fulfills patient’s last wish to hear classical music

A dying patient’s wish to hear classical music was recently fulfilled at Mackay Peace Regional Hospital in Queensland. Dr. Michael Lamm, a talented cellist and medical recorder, played a range of classical music including Bach’s first and third cello suites and “The Swan” by Saint-Saëns and Schubert’s Ave Maria.

The patient had decided to end her treatment for a long-term chronic condition in May 2022 and when she was hospitalized with another acute condition, she wanted to pass in a dignified and peaceful manner. As part of her support through the planning for the end of her life, she has expressed her desire to hear live music again.

In a statement from Mackay Hospital and Health Services (MHHS), Dr Lamm said the patient was very grateful and asked to play with her again later that day.

“She was really happy and shared her love of classical music with me. She told me it reminded her of her childhood.”

Clinical Director of Medicine Senior Staff Specialist Dr. Manjit Pawar was among the staff outside the patient’s room listening to music.

“I had a tingling in my spine hearing Bach’s beautiful music as staff and patients paused to listen as they passed by.

“We can see how the patient was at peace, very satisfied and happy with Michael’s playing.”

Prior to his training as a physician, Dr. Lam studied music at the University of Toronto and the Shanghai Conservatory and toured the world playing cello, piano and flute. He is also a talented singer and choral conductor. He has also participated in the Queensland Medical Orchestra and Choir (QMO).

“The most incredible thing I learned in Mead School was: How many great composers had great chronic illnesses? And that you can trace the severity of their illnesses in chronological order through their music. My favorite example of this is Maurice Ravel’s apraxia and aphasia, which developed as early as 1927,” as claimed by Dr. Michael Lamm in his QMO profile.

Ravel’s musical productions at the time included the bolero (1928), the left-hand piano concerto (1929-30) and the VJ piano concerto (1929-1931).

“Ravel wished to perform his piano concerto for the first time, but was hampered by extreme fatigue for some unknown reason. A car accident in 1933 accelerated his decline and he never adapted again from that moment on.”

Dr. Lam is in the process of specializing as a palliative care physician, a physician whose role includes emotional support for the patient as well as medical and physical well-being at the end of life.

“I’ve done this many times before and know that many patients are helped when we do non-medical things to comprehensively care for them,” he said in a statement.

He said that music and medicine often go hand in hand.

“It has been clear to me for a long time that music has a therapeutic benefit for both patients and staff,” he explained.

Dr. Lam has long been an advocate for music in hospitals. In 2019, he was part of a group of medical professionals who secured funding for a grand piano to be placed in the lobby of Sunshine Coast University Hospital.

“We know it helps tremendously in the areas of anxiety relief, people with eating disorders and as a distraction care therapy for palliative care patients,” he said in an interview with ABC in 2019.

Dr. Bower explained, “Medicine is not just about using drugs and processes to fix things, which is something I think we sometimes forget. Reaching our patients as another human being is just as important, and I will never forget this moment.”

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