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Views & Reviews Personal View

Letting go

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 24 November 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b4982
  1. Alex Paton, retired consultant physician, Oxfordshire
  1. alexpaton{at}

    We were having a cup of tea the afternoon my wife, Ann Pepys, died last November aged 85. At the exact moment the power pack of an Xbox being operated by our youngest grandson blew up, plunging the house in darkness.

    She wanted to die, and we realised she meant it. She had had a wretched summer, with several falls and difficulty getting about; she found it hard to read or embroider because of double vision; a keen plantswoman, she said there was no point living if she could no longer garden. A medical check and attendance at a falls clinic did little to improve morale. Matters came to a head with the sudden onset of heart block and her urgent admission to hospital. That evening she had a cardiac arrest for which she was shocked, in spite of providing the staff with an advanced directive stating that she did not wish to be resuscitated. A pacemaker was inserted but did little to improve matters, and she spent a week in a depressing geriatric ward because of a slight fever.

    We had difficulty in persuading the doctors to let us take her home and were required to sign her out against medical …

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