Obituaries: the future

BMJ 1995; 311 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.311.6998.143 (Published 15 July 1995)
Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:143

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  1. Stephen Lock, Formerly editor,
  2. Richard Smith
  1. BMJ Editor BMJ London WC1H 9JR

    Developing by evolution not revolution

    Obituaries are one of the most popular sections of the BMJ. The many letters that we received in response to our last editorial on obituaries and the high response rate to our questionnaire on the subject confirmed their popularity.1 2 The letters and the answers to the questionnaire have helped us consider how to respond to the central problem: how to publish rapidly in a limited number of pages an ever increasing number of obituaries, preserving their accuracy and usefulness and increasing their readability. We think that we can achieve this through evolution rather than revolution.

    Many diverse opinions were expressed by our 110 correspondents and 646 respondents to our survey sent to 1070 doctors, but some things emerged very clearly: most readers want obituaries kept, almost all were keen that we keep space for “ordinary” doctors, and a third wanted more attention paid to the subjects' failings. Consistently respondents thought that shorter obituaries would be better, and they strongly preferred a single paragraph: many would also accept, however, that the …

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