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Views & Reviews Personal View

An extremely interesting time to die

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 15 July 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b2827
  1. Ann McPherson, medical director
  1. 1DIPEx Health Experiences Research Group, Department of Primary Care, University of Oxford
  1. Ann.McPherson{at}

    It is now almost 14 years since I wrote my last personal view for the BMJ (1995;310:1339). At that time it was about being given a diagnosis of breast cancer, the treatment and prognosis of which have now improved immeasurably, such that presently breast cancer is more a “chronic” condition than a death sentence, with a five year survival rate of up to 90%. But what about the pancreatic cancer I now have, with a five year survival rate of 4% or worse? Two years after a Whipple procedure I was last week found to have a reoccurrence of my primary cancer, with secondaries in my lung. These are the bare facts. But in spite of their grim significance for me, this really is an extremely interesting time to die, given the present debates over resources, the rulings of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, developments in palliative care, arguments over assisted death, and the possibility of now being able to see …

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