Intended for healthcare professionals

Editorials Christmas 2009: Professional matters

Where have all the hospital flowers gone?

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 17 December 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b5406
  1. Simon Cohn, medical anthropologist
  1. 1General Practice and Primary Care Research Unit, Institute of Public Health, Cambridge University, Cambridge CB2 0SR
  1. simon.cohn{at}

    They have fallen victim to new definitions of care

    Christmas is a time for giving, so it is timely to consider the reasoning behind the extensive and growing ban on giving flowers to patients in hospital. The article by Giskin Day and Naiome Carter describes how both individual wards and entire hospitals are using their discretion to prohibit flowers on the ward, in the absence of any official ruling from the Department of Health.1 It is undoubtedly causing consternation for patients and visitors alike.

    The reasons for such prohibitions are varied, something that should immediately make us curious. As Day and Carter point out, some argue that it is about reducing the risk of injury from broken glass, or avoiding the depletion of oxygen in the air from decomposing material, or even avoiding water spillage over modern electronic equipment. In addition, some staff cite the inconvenience of changing water regularly and the problems of disposing of dead flowers. Unsurprisingly, in the context of invigorated concern around hospital cleanliness, the …

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