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September 1963

Doctors and Dying

Author Affiliations

University of Washington School of Medicine Seattle 5, Wash

Arch Intern Med. 1963;112(3):327-332. doi:10.1001/archinte.1963.03860030081005

"They Also Serve Who Only Stand and Wait"  John Milton's famous words express an idea of subtle importance, especially when applied to the physician who has to deal with a dying patient. Death is, although in a very negative way, at the basis of all that is done by the medical profession. We physicians are proud of our scientific training and abilities, and present-day society has expended much time and money to produce in each of us an excellent technician, facile in the ways of science. Many of us know some of the details of the physiology of dying both at the tissue and cellular level; most of us have pondered from a biologic standpoint the question "when is a human being actually dead?" Science, however cannot help us in supporting a dying man in his death. It is a curious fact that, as medical students and physicians, we spend

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