Reviews PERSONAL VIEW

A time to live or a time to die?

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.328.7453.1445 (Published 10 June 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:1445

I lost my husband a year ago—but thanks to the medical profession I can visit him daily. With his sharp analytical mind he had, despite total blindness, won a state scholarship to university. He was very independent, regularly travelling alone to work and around a busy provincial city. The illness of a relative meant that we, his family, were fully aware of his abhorrence of the loss of mental faculty.

After his massive brain haemorrhage (as described by his admitting consultant) Michael developed pneumonia, and it was agreed he should not be treated actively. However, his consultant said that he would be more comfortable with antibiotics. How do doctors know what a patient in that condition is suffering? I then found a house officer giving another injection. When questioned he told me, with the naivety of the young, that he was curing my husband. After Michael had recovered from the pneumonia the medical team decided to feed him through a nasogastric tube, which he repeatedly removed.

It should be mandatory for aspiring doctors to work in a …

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