Art of Medicine
Apr 2021

Going Up or Down?

Katelyn Norman, MD
AMA J Ethics. 2021;23(4):E362-363. doi: 10.1001/amajethics.2021.362.


This oil painting of a crowded elevator carriage suggests our numerous shared uncertainties, risk of exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and lack of knowledge about our and others’ risk of death from COVID-19. Personal protective equipment is uncomfortable, but it’s less uncomfortable, perhaps, than knowing our safety depends so much on others’ behaviors.


Figure. The Elevator



Oil on canvas, 24" x 36".


In this crowded hospital elevator, the doors have either just opened or are about to close, and the carriage is either going up or down. Occupants include patients, visitors, clinicians, and administrators who are (or are not) donning various kinds of personal protective equipment; proximity both unites and threatens them. The Elevator is a reflection on our discomfort with depending on others to express consideration and respect for our safety and with their dependence on us. We’re all in this together, but some among us have more to lose.


AMA J Ethics. 2021;23(4):E362-363.



Conflict of Interest Disclosure

The author(s) had no conflicts of interest to disclose.

The viewpoints expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the AMA.