Going private: time for changeBMJ 1994; 309 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.309.6970.1699 (Published 24 December 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;309:1699
Just before her birthday Alma packed a small suitcase and prepared to leave home. It was to be her fourth stay in hospital and her last. Alma had an inoperable tumour in her lung and had not much more than a week to live. She was well known to nursing staff. They set aside two rooms where her family and friends could gather and a party was organised. Chairs and a buffet were brought in and we celebrated Alma's birthday and the engagement of her son. That night, on a morphine drip, she gradually glided into unconsciousness.
Her friend and partner in the last years of her life, I was at her side and have nothing but praise for the way the hospital handled her dying days. But I'm appalled by what Alma endured in the preceding months. I accept the guarantees of the administrative staff that Alma's experiences could not be repeated and I have decided not to take the matter to court. But I don't want the matter to be dropped. There are too many lessons to be learnt.
Alma was a lifelong smoker and her cancer was picked up in its early stages following a routine x ray examination. After taking advice, Alma was referred to a top thoracic surgeon. He decided to remove part of …