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Br J Gen Pract. 2005 February 1; 55(511): 148.
PMCID: PMC1463195

The duty to die cheaply

O Fleming, Retired GP

In the December 2004 issue you publish a piece by Peter Goldsworthy,1 ‘The duty to die cheaply’. Maybe it was meant to be funny, but I was not amused. On the contrary, the picture of a professional man, a GP to boot, drinking himself to incapacity and making a fool of himself was disgusting. I think the only people who would find such a story amusing are those who split their sides laughing when they see somebody drop his trousers. An article like this has no place in a medical journal.


1. Goldsworthy P. The duty to die cheaply. Br J Gen Pract. 2004;54:972–975.
Br J Gen Pract. 2005 February 1; 55(511): 148.

Editor's response

Alec Logan, Deputy Editor

Thank you for commenting in forceful terms about the Peter Goldsworthy short story we published in December. We always value feedback even when, as in this case, you are not best pleased with our efforts.

I don't agree however either with your comment that such a piece has no place in a medical journal, nor with your specific criticisms re Goldsworthy. As to the former point, what sort of material does have a place in a medical journal? In my view a medical journal has to encompass more than dry academe, and we can all learn and reflect from a wide range of material — polemic, fiction, personal reflection, the visual arts, music, poetry, etc. This is more true perhaps of a medical journal where the medicine happens to be general practice. In general practice, surely, all of life is there, including the warty nasty desanitised bits. With regard to Goldsworthy, his story does have a certain dark mordant wit, but I don't think that we are expected to laugh at our colleague's behaviour. We are repelled by his performance, we cringe, although we also know that doctors do behave disgracefully on occasions. This story forces us to look at ourselves, in my view. It is also a superb piece of short story writing technically — austere, every word counting, drawing the reader along (I take it that you made it to the end?). In my view the BJGP has performed a service in bringing Goldsworthy's work to a wider readership.

I may not convince you, but c'est la vie — a lively debate about what the BJGP does is always welcome!

Articles from The British Journal of General Practice are provided here courtesy of Royal College of General Practitioners