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Views And Reviews

Death is no longer just in the hands of god or fate, but often a decision

BMJ 2018; 361 doi: (Published 22 May 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;361:k2217
  1. Mary E Black, public health doctor
  1. London, UK
  1. maryethnablack{at}
    Follow Mary on Twitter at @DrMaryBlack

There is much discussion about the right of an individual to die, but not enough about the role of relatives and friends

This is how I killed my mother.

On 30 October 2017 I had just landed at Heathrow from Melbourne. I had the strangest feeling I should not go directly to bed. I wondered if I should visit my mother, Margaret Black, a 92 year old retired anaesthetist living very independently in a warden assisted housing complex in Kent. At midday I got a call from my sister—mum had developed abdominal pain, pressed the alarm button, and phoned her GP. Could I go?

She was confined to her chair and could not move. Her GP had been unable to call her back and so had alerted the ambulance service. First responders on that day were the local fire brigade, all part timers. She held forth from her chair, relating her symptoms clearly while the warden packed her bag. The ambulance arrived, she helped them do …

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