Chinnamasta’s DNR order

Choreography by: Rohini Bhatia
Performed By: Rohini Bhatia and Shilpa Darivemula
Music: Lasya by Anoushka Shankar, MOLST Form Reading by Michelle Shankar
Music Mixed by Emily Stangle and Rohini Bhatia
Costumes by: Shilpa Darivemula
Videography: Valerie Green of the Fertile Ground Showcase

This is the third installment in our Mahavidyas in Medicine series, which focuses on the dialogue between the patient and the physician when choosing to intervene.

The Intensive Care Unit or ICU in a hospital is a meticulously regulated place. When patients require a higher level of care, more monitors, more medicines, more tests, they are often sent here. However, there comes a time when all of this “more” is not needed–and a conversation takes place between the patient, if he or she is able, the family, and the providers. This conversation encompasses a negotiation: how much of “more” would they want? In certain cases, patients have signed a DNR/DNI, a do not resuscitate and do not intubate order, noting that they would not want to live with a breathing tube or machine keeping them alive. Observing these conversations take place, one is reminded that taking a patient’s wishes into account, more intervention is not necessarily the best decision.
This dance embodies the Mahavidya Chinnamasta, who sacrificed parts of herself to help her loved ones embraces the theme of minimalism and simplicity. In this dance, a patient begins a jathi in complete silence, representing her health and wholeness as an independent person, able to dance with no need for external music. The dancers then descends into illness, with gestures representing pain, hair loss, dehydration, and fatigue. She shows a demon as the illness within her, taking away her sense of self and forcing her to dance to the external music. The patient becomes terminally ill and enters the hospital in crisis. A physican begins caring for the patient, but from the outset there is a struggle between the interventions and tests run and what the patient wants. An EKG is placed, an IV is inserted, and a ventilation mask is positioned. Towards the end of the piece, the physician enquires into the patient’s wishes, recognizing that she does not want more interventions. The decision to remove interventions to simplify care and respect the patient’s perspective on her treatment choices concludes the dance, a sacred simplicity understood by the depiction of goddess Chinnamasta.