“In addition to my training in social science, I was trained as a hospice doctor. When I was at the University of Chicago (until 2001), I had a very special clinical practice that involved taking care of people in their own homes, and on Sunday afternoons I would take my little black bag to the South Side of Chicago and visit people who were dying. I had a sort of schizophrenic practice. About a third of my patients were very educated people associated with the University of Chicago, and two-thirds were indigant people from the South Side.
“I have the very distinct image in my mind of experiences of myself driving to a borderline safe community, parking my car, looking around, walking up the short steps to the door, knocking, and waiting for what often seemed like a very long time for someone to come to the door. And then being led into people’s homes often by the spouse of the person who was dying. There were often other relatives around and my primary focus as a hospice doctor was not just the person who was dying, but also the family members. I became increasingly interested in this.
“I began to see in a very real way that the illness of the person dying was affecting the health status of other individuals in the family. And I began to see this as a kind of non-biological transmission of disease — as if illness or death or health care use in one person could cause illness or death or health care use in other people connected to him.”