Views & Reviews Personal View

From doctor to carer: mission impossible?

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 29 June 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b2614
  1. Anthony H Knight, retired consultant physician, Buckinghamshire
  1. tktheoldvic{at}

    “You just need to be the carer now . . . and you have to stop being a doctor.” A wry half smile of compassion accompanied the earnest gaze of our general practitioner as the three of us sat discussing the details of Sheila’s care and the part in the plan that I hoped to be able to fulfil myself. It is now one year since my wife died from cancer, and I wonder if I ever managed to make that transition. Had I been able to give up being the doctor in our family and become the essential carer? Throughout that precious time of caring, filled with a mixture of anxiety, emotion, and physical exhaustion, there remained that dilemma. How well was I doing at my job as carer, and how successful was I at dumping the doctor within me?

    Four years earlier Sheila had undergone an emergency laparotomy for peritonitis from a perforated diverticulitis. I sat watching the monitor screens, all too aware of possible postoperative disasters. …

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