If it was your brother

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: (Published 03 June 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:1385
  1. Macherla Radhamanohar, consultant physician in general medicine for elderly people (
  1. he Royal London Hospital, London

    “Doctor, do what you would do if it was your father or brother,” requested the son of a patient who had been given a diagnosis of cancer of the pancreas with liver metastases. The patient's condition rapidly deteriorated that week, and I had a meeting with the relatives to update them and also to prepare them for the worst. But the son's request made me feel uneasy and set me thinking about events in my own family.

    Two years ago I went to India to arrange medical care for my eldest brother, who was given a diagnosis of carcinoma of the tongue six years previously. Unfortunately radiotherapy had resulted in severe side effects. He had dysphagia, had become very thin, and had to be fed through a gastric tube. He had been experiencing severe pain in his throat and ear. In addition he developed lung cancer, though he seemed to have responded well to chemotherapy.

    I realised that I should act as a doctor, not as …

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