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Views & Reviews Personal views

Should doctors go to patients' funerals?

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: (Published 21 June 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:1322
  1. Bruce Arroll, professor,
  2. Karen Falloon, academic registrar
  1. Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand
  1. Correspondence to: B Arroll b.arroll{at}

    Some years ago I (BA) decided to start attending the funerals of patients. This was in response to having had a positive experience of attending a funeral where the family was very appreciative of my presence. Recently I attended the funerals of two patients who died within a few weeks of each other. Again, both funerals afforded me the opportunity to meet the extended family of the deceased and again, in both cases the family appreciated my attendance.

    What stood out with the two recent funerals was that in both cases a close relative came to visit me in the clinic within a week. It was obvious these were not visits for any particular pressing medical problem but more of a social nature. The talk revolved around the funeral and, having been a participant, I felt I could make a meaningful contribution to the conversation. I was left with the impression that my attendance at …

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