Intended for healthcare professionals

Views & Reviews No Holds Barred

What should we die from?

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 27 May 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g3380
  1. Margaret McCartney, general practitioner, Glasgow
  1. margaret{at}

“If we don’t die of cancer, what are we going to die of?”

“Our objective is to make sure that fewer people die of cancer.”

This was an exchange between the presenter Evan Davis and Harpal Kumar, the chief executive of Cancer Research UK, on Radio 4’s Today programme on 29 April. It reminded me of “pass the parcel” in reverse: like the children’s party game, but where you don’t want to be left holding the parcel when the music stops. The parcel represents a person being passed from one healthcare charity to another, none of them wanting the music to stop—that is, for the person to die of a cause related to that charity’s work.

This desire to ascribe the cause …

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