Intended for healthcare professionals


Family history

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 09 November 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:1112
  1. Simon P Stephenson, on sabbatical (
  1. Glasgow

    A box on the cremation form requests a “description or occupation” of the deceased, an apparent anachronism in these days of DNA fingerprinting and mass unemployment.

    In the first enthusiastic flushes of work, however, I tried to be meticulous about that box. If there was no occupational history in the patient's records, I would ask the nurses; sometimes they had listened to the patient's reminisces. Occasionally, when bereaved families seemed anxious to talk about their late relative, I could ask them directly. It rarely otherwise seemed appropriate, though, and consequently I often found myself writing “Retired” in the box.

    Another month found me more pragmatic about the box: the quickest of glances through the notes became all that was …

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