BMJ 2008; 336 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.a359 (Published 19 June 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:1444

After the recent death of two friends, a doctor speculates why, as a profession, we are so bad at dealing with dying—despite the obvious fact that, sooner or later, it is the certain fate of every patient that we see. He thinks that we shouldn’t think of death as an aberration or as a failure. We need to realise medicine is peripheral to death, not the other way around (Postgraduate Medical Journal 2008;84:279-80; doi: 10.1136/pgmj.2008.070169).

Most people thought Ivan Illich was exaggerating when he coined the phrase “medicalisation of life” back in the 1970s. In fact, he was bang on target, according to an essay in PLoS Medicine (2008;5:e106; doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0050106) which discusses the phenomenon of disease mongering—the deliberate widening of the boundaries of illness to grow markets for those who sell and deliver treatments. It is a process that turns healthy people into patients, causes iatrogenic harm, and wastes precious resources, but it’s driven by professional as well as commercial interests.

The BMJ Ethics Committee is looking for a …

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