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Oscar the Cat Provides Comfort To Dying Patients, Offers Lessons On Dealing With Terminal Illness

2 comments

Perhaps you recall the story of the cat that lives in a nursing home and can predict death. Oscar is that feline’s name and he does have an uncanny ability to guess when a patient is about to die: so far he has correctly predicted 50 deaths. His pattern is this: when he senses a patient’s imminent departure he stays with them, lying on their bed to keep them company, until they pass away. However, Dr. David Dosa, the man responsible for “revealing” Oscar’s abilities didn’t mean to make the cat out to be a furry grim reaper when he wrote about him in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2007. In his new book, "Making Rounds With Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat", Dr. Dosa sheds Oscar in a more positive light.

Oscar’s story has a humble beginning: he was adopted from an animal rescue shelter to work as a therapy pet at the Steer House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, RI, which cares for patients with severe dementia or other serious and terminal illnesses. When Oscar was about six months old, the hospital staff noticed that he would sleep with patients that were about to die. While neither Dosa nor the hospital staff knows for sure why Oscar can “predict” death, some have speculated that humans give off specific pheromones when they are about to die—ones that Oscar can smell, but we can’t.

Despite the speculations, Dosa recently stated that he wrote the book to focus on dealing with terminal illness, not to focus on why Oscar can predict death. Oscar has played a pivotal role in many patients’ last moments. In fact, Oscar has even been thanked by families in obituaries for providing comfort in the last moments of life. Oscar’s life is pretty much the same though: while he is somewhat friendlier, the fame hasn’t changed him very much. Instead, Dosa says that Oscar spends much of his time staring out a window.

2 Comments

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  1. Steve Lombardi says:
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    I’m sorry but I just have to ask this question: Does the nursing home bill Oscar’s services using the CPT Code 76370 for a CAT scan for therapy guide or 78459 for administering a PET scan? I asked because under Medicare rules there are three options for identifying PET Scans for billing purposes.

    And I know everyone is curious about how OSCAR does it so allow me to say what I think he’s doing. A PET scan is a noninvasive diagnostic imaging procedure that assesses the level of metabolic activity and perfusion in various organ systems of the [human] body. What Oscar is probably doing is using his higher powers to produce cross-sectional tomographic images, which are obtained from positron emitting radioactive tracer substances that he’s secretly administering intravenously to the nursing home residents. Way to go Oscar! You gotta love a good cat in the white coat story.

  2. Steve Lombardi says:
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    Oh one more thing David. I’m not sitting idly by and letting you grab the headlines with Oscar’s heart strings tugging story. My blog this week will have a story about a personal injury involving 24,000 pounds of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You could say the semi-truck driver got himself in a jam. What say ye TruckieD?