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What are coroners and pathologists for?

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 01 April 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b1355
  1. Colin Reisner, retired consultant physician, Staffordshire
  1. c.reisner475{at}

    Around 10 years ago my mother began to show signs of dementia, and over the ensuing years she gradually deteriorated. Happily, the hard work and dedication of a band of professional carers meant she was able to stay in her own home. By autumn 2007 she was chair-bound or bed-bound, was speechless, and needed to be fed, although she still seemed to take some pleasure in life. In December of that year she seemed to be actively refusing food, and liquids would often just run out of her mouth. Apart from her poor brain, all other internal organs seemed to be working satisfactorily. Notably there was no dyspnoea, orthopnoea or oedema, nor did I ever spot a raised jugular pressure.

    A few days after Christmas we were not surprised to get a call from her devoted and longstanding carer, telling us that she was even less well. The carer had already called the emergency doctor, who telephoned me after assessing my mother. He thought she was dying. He doubted that …

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