It is often fruitful to examine issues of contemporary healthcare ethics through the lens of history and ask, How are things the same and how have they changed? In some ways the conflicts we confront in critical care today hearken back to much older times. Literature and other arts can serve as a means to better understand ourselves by seeing our struggles and conflicts reflected in the actions of characters living in different times, places, and contexts.

In this column I will explore brief selections from ancient Greek literature to see what light Homer’s epic poem about the Trojan war, The Iliad,11 and Sophocles’ tragic play Antigone22 can shed on the struggle to limit medical treatment and implement proper end-of-life care in critical care units in the 21st century. I admit this is a...

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