Intended for healthcare professionals

Views & Reviews Medical Classics

The Emperor of Ice-Cream

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 25 January 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e562
  1. Desmond O’Neill, consultant physician in geriatric and stroke medicine, Dublin
  1. doneill{at}

Although death is a constant companion of medical practice, we are rarely well equipped for the juxtaposition of life and the living with death and the dying. From the chatter from the nurses’ station and the hubbub of visiting families to the quiet of the side room, there is a constant and often uneasy sense of two parallel worlds jostling with each other.

The respectful stillness and calm in the company of the dying eventually segues into discussion and even laughter, with episodic, sometimes embarrassed, lapses back into solemnity and silence. An awareness of the awesome nature of what we are witnessing is constantly …

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