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December 1, 1989


JAMA. 1989;262(21):3071-3078. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03430210113051

CHAIRPERSON'S COLUMN  The death of a patient is always accompanied by feelings of sorrow. It represents, to some degree, the medical profession's failure to maintain life, which it is sworn to preserve. But death is, of course, an inevitable part of the human process and a completion of the life cycle. Medical students learn to deal with death at many levels. Sometimes, a medical student's first encounter with death occurs when a patient dies. The student not only must cope with the fact that a person is no longer alive, but may also interact with the families of the deceased and assist in obtaining autopsy permission. This leads to the scientific learning experience that death represents in a medical student's training. Death of a patient provides the student with an experience in the natural history of an illness. After caring for a dying patient, the student often is left with