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Logo of bmjThis ArticleThe BMJ
BMJ. 2007 July 21; 335(7611): 112.
PMCID: PMC1925191
Attending Patients' Funerals

We can always care

Ros Thorburn, consultant community paediatrician and Martin Roland, professor of general practice

When our son died of cancer last year at the age of 25, a number of his doctors and nurses came to his funeral.1 We were not able to talk to them at the time, but we knew that they had been there as they filled in cards which the funeral director provides. We have had contact with one or two of them since, and the shared experience was of tremendous importance. It meant a lot to us that they had taken time out of their busy schedule to come. For us it was an important mark of respect for our son. It showed that they cared and was part of a long healing process.

As a community paediatrician, I (RT) have tried wherever possible to attend the funerals of disabled children under my care. I have usually grown to know the families well. The untimely death of a child or young adult is devastating, and families have always seemed to appreciate my presence. We cannot always cure but we can always care. My personal experience has reinforced this feeling a hundredfold.


Competing interests: None declared.


1. Arroll B, Falloon K. Should doctors go to patients' funerals? BMJ 2007;334:1322 (23 June.) [PMC free article] [PubMed]

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