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BMJ 2001; 322 doi: (Published 13 January 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;322:117
  1. Thurstan Brewin, retired clinical oncologist
  1. Oxford

    When a patient is dying at home—for example, from a cancer that has turned out to be incurable—it makes a big difference in my experience if the family doctor continues to call regularly, say once a week, rather than just waiting to be called out in a crisis. Otherwise, patients and relatives are liable to feel abandoned and deserted when they least expect it.

    I saw this when working with the Ontario Cancer Foundation 40 years ago, then in Scotland as a clinical oncologist in the NHS, then while visiting Marie Curie Cancer Care centres all over the United Kingdom. Everywhere it was the same story. Some general practitioners continued to visit regularly and gave great support. Some visited only occasionally—often stiffly, awkwardly, and with no promise to call again. Many never visited. Both nurses and relatives would have liked a regular friendly weekly call, but it never came.

    Patients dying of heart failure have a better chance of being visited than those with cancer

    My impression is that little has changed. Recently two friends of mine were each offered …

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