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Assisted suicide: a substitute for a caring doctor?

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 23 March 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c1590
  1. Brian Livesley, emeritus professor in the care of the elderly, Imperial College London
  1. brian.livesley{at}

    The 97 year old dying man I was visiting on a hospital ward emitted a piercing scream of pain. I discovered that his intravenous fluids had been stopped, his catheter also unexpectedly removed, a “nil by mouth” notice had appeared by his bedside, and his scream was due to the pain of attempting to pass concentrated and infected urine while he was left unattended. Informed negotiation with the ward sister allowed correction of the deficits and his physical discomfort. When he returned home the causes of his recurring emotional and physical misery were correctly diagnosed, explained to him, and eased by his general practitioner, who also talked to his daughter. He was able to relax and, with his fears assuaged, enjoy relevant and amusing conversations with his daughter and visiting friends over the next few days until, in their presence, he passed away comfortably.

    A gentle …

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