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Breaking bad news

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: (Published 25 May 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:1285
  1. Sheila Thompson

    Lady on low fat diet to waiter: “How do you prepare the chicken?” Waiter: “We give it to them straight, madam. We tell them: ‘You're going to die.’”

    The GP said something about motor neurone disease as she left. Or had I misheard?

    Early in 2000, I noticed a change in my speaking voice. First it went deeper, then hoarser, and then it lapsed into a croak. Gradually it became worse, began to slur, and even occasionally to fail me altogether.

    I started on a round of doctors, ending up, at my request, with a neurologist who located a problem in my tongue. He was circumspect and parried all my questions but did not discount my fears. He ordered a lot more tests, the last a lumbar puncture. Each time I toiled up to that hospital, I was wondering if I would hear the diagnosis I most feared, the one I had described to my general practitioner as “the worst scenario.”

    Is waiting the hardest time of all? I think so now and I thought so then. Whatever …

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