May 14, 1982

Doctors and Dying

Author Affiliations

St John's Regional Oncology Center Joplin, Mo

JAMA. 1982;247(18):2569-2570. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03320430073039

How to prepare a child for a good-bye visit to a dying loved one? Dr Rubenstein's description of the way she and her husband prepared their children (p 2571) is a useful blueprint. Physicians would do well to give copies of her article to people who have children and dying relatives and friends.

In our society open discussion of death is taboo. Physicians, having grown up in our society, find themselves in a cultural bind. They are supposed to heal, not allow death. They are supposed to comfort, but often cannot face the reality of death.

By breaking the taboo against children's involvement in the death of important relatives, the Rubensteins taught their children that "sickness is a part of life and that human beings have a need to say good-bye when time shared is over." The "wistful pleasure" with which the children mention the last visit to Grandpa emphasizes