Bmj Usa: Filler

The man who was afraid to die

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 19 November 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:E176
  1. Donald W MacCorquodale, general practitioner and specialist in preventive medicine (
  1. Washington, DC

    From BMJ USA 2002;Dec:677

    When I started to practice medicine in 1950, I was terrified. I had never owed a dime in my life, and suddenly I found myself in debt for a house, a new Chevrolet sedan, an examining table, and some odds and ends of medical equipment. Furthermore, my wife was pregnant.

    How ridiculous it seems today to look back at that time long ago and recall that I was uncomfortable about being young. Every now and again when I was making a house call on a new family, the man who opened the door would look a bit surprised and say, “Doctor, we were expecting an older man.” I used to pat him on the shoulder and assure him I was growing a bit older every day.

    One of the first people I met was a florid-faced, likable fellow some years my senior by the name of “Swede,” the only name by which I can remember him today. Actually, I met his wife first when she became my patient. Swede's wife was one of those women who had weighed life and found it wanting. I suspect she suffered from mild depression, and she certainly suffered from a lot of anxiety.

    Swede's wife never succeeded in telling me exactly what was wrong. She would burst into tears every time she came into my office. Then, when I asked her what was wrong, she would protest tearfully that she really didn't know but she just didn't feel good. I used to listen quietly for fifteen …

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