Fillers A memorable patient

Doing the kind thing

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 31 March 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:764
  1. Chris Burns-Cox, consultant physician (,
  2. Rachel Gilbert, nursing sister
  1. Frenchay Hospital, Bristol
  2. Frenchay Hospital, Bristol

    Physician's tale

    Some years ago I was asked to visit a 62 year old man on hunger strike in a prison hospital. He was awaiting trial for murder. There was no physical reason for his not eating, and neither the prison doctor nor a psychiatrist could find any evidence of mental illness. The prisoner simply felt that only by ending his own life could he approach atonement for his sin. My opinion was that we should try to encourage him to change his aim but that he should be allowed to starve himself to death if he insisted. He seemed to me to be a man of honour who knew he had made a terrible mistake.

    Over the next few days he was seen by several psychiatrists from around the country, and they all found him sane. He saw …

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