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July 1985

Physician Practices When a Patient Dies

Arch Intern Med. 1985;145(7):1330-1333. doi:10.1001/archinte.1985.00360070212042

To the Editor.  —The article by Tolle and coauthors1 in the December 1984 issue of the Archives was an important contribution to improvement of the art of medical practice during one of its most difficult points in the natural history of disease, ie, patient death. My mentor and colleague, Wilbur W. Oaks, MD, former chairman of the Department of Medicine at the Hahnemann University, Philadelphia, made me cognizant of the utility of a personal letter to the family of deceased patients.For the last 15 years, I have been writing to families and teaching my students and house staff to follow this practice. I have focused carefully on the common denominators for such a letter, and I would like to share them with your readers.The letter begins with an expression of sympathy and ends with a reiteration of this expression. In between these sentiments, I personalize five messages.