Doctor, help! My child has cancerBMJ 2000; 320 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.320.7235.644 (Published 04 March 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;320:644
All rapid responses
I have read the responses to Doctor, help! My child has cancer.
My son was diagnosed with medulloblastoma in 1999 and he died in May
2000. Our relationship with our GP was similar to the author.
We, too, have felt abandoned by our GP. Previously supportive we
heard nothing from them, and no enquiry was made of us when we visited the
surgery for other reasons. Would it have been so hard to ask how we were
on those occasions?
We don't expect guess work.
With a protocol in place there would be no need for guess work. The
protocol could be quite simple;
1. Contact the family within a month of diagnosis and arrange a home
2. State your purpose at the home visit; to care for the emotional well
being of the family members whilst the treatment centre concentrates on
treating the child
3. State how this will be achieved; the doctor will contact the family
regularly (suggest a time scale i.e. every 8 weeks) and arrange home
4. encourage the family to call in between times if necessary and outline
the benefit of maintaining contact with GP practice by taking advantage of
As time goes on it would be appropriate to request the family visits
the surgery periodically instead of relying on home visits.
I would have been delighted if my GP had suggested this, especially
as my son had been expected to do well but his cancer returned and he died
just 4 days after his recurrance was diagnosed
In his response Dr. Peter Davies suggests that if a family wants help
they should pick up the telephone and ask for it. I have a question "How
am I supposed to know I need help?"
Any doctor who believes there is any easy answer to that question has
never been the parent of a child with cancer.
Just as with Dr. Rebecca Baron's father, my son died in hospital with
a nurse stood unobtrusively in the back-ground. At that moment when I
knew he was taking his last few breathes she mimed "Just love him" and I
did and the memory of that support still sustains me.
Our Consultant had been attending a conference abroad; he maintained
telephone contact with the hospital and returned on an earlier flight than
planned as my son's condition worsened rapidly. He arrived back on the
ward just in time and both my husband and I were very appreciative of his
presence. For inexplicable reasons it was important to us both that he,
and not the on-call doctor, certified the death.
Competing interests: No competing interests