Tag Archives: death

Beatrice PretiBeatrice Preti
McMaster University
Class of 2017






The curtains were drawn, I walked into the room,
Looked at the lady, and said, “How do you do?”
She was very kind, just a little bit addled,
But the doctors around us were really quite baffled
Had she had a stroke? Was it from the MVC?
There was nothing at all to see on the multiple CTs
Save a little bit of shadowing, in the corner over here
But the pictures were too blurry. No, not a single thing was clear!
So they made a few calls, and then made a couple more
They met with the consultants on every single floor
They put their heads together, and came up with an answer
“It’s so obvious!” they said. “She has metastatic cancer!”
...continue reading


mary headshotMary Koziol
McGill University
Class of 2018


I am not ready to die. But I am not afraid of death. ...continue reading

Domhnall MacAuleyDomhnall MacAuley is a CMAJ Associate Editor and a professor of primary care in Northern Ireland, UK


At Dotmed2014 “The creative medical conferenceeveryone present seemed to be just a little bit different, both on the stage and in the audience. There were artists, musicians, poets, novelists, doctors and patients. Muiris Houston, doctor, journalist, and joint convenor of the conference, said it was designed to explore that space between medicine and humanity. But, it was also empowering, entertaining, stimulating and mind bending.

When she saw the blood on the glove she knew it was time to create a fuss. Not everyone does a rectal examination on their dad, but his blood pressure was dropping and the medical staff were not taking enough notice and someone had to look for a cause. Stories grab attention and when Dr Louise Aronson from UCSF told a gripping story of her father’s stay in hospital she showed that doctors, just like patients, respond well to narratives. For those of involved in public medical communication Aronson said, “the communication ecosystem has changed” and she gave five tips: ...continue reading

Pat_Harrold_photoPat Harrold is a family physician working in County Tipperary, Ireland

It had been the worst snap of cold weather for many years. An elderly farmer had gone missing and a body had been discovered. I was the general practitioner on call for the night so I found myself in the back of a police car speeding through the darkness to a mountainside in a remote part of Ireland. I was glad I was not driving, the snow had fallen thickly and it was glittering in a hard frost. The moon was bright and it was as cold as it could get.

At last we reached the spot where several local men in high-viz jackets were waving torches. The car could go no further. A hearse pulled in alongside us and a portly undertaker, incongruous among the farmers and police in his suit, overcoat and city shoes, introduced himself. Then we all set off up the mountain at a fearsome pace.

The moon was so bright that we had no need of the farmer's torches. Before long I could hear the police panting for breath. These local lads were fit. At last we stopped at the place where an elderly man lay, literally frozen in a snowy field. One arm was lifted, as if to wave goodbye, and his open eyes gazed at the starry sky.

There was not much for me to do. I placed a hand on his icy wrist, took note of the time and, pronounced him dead. But nobody moved .The ring of men waited silently staring at me. What else was I supposed to do? There was no family member to comfort. The police would contact the coroner. Still they waited. What did they know that I did not? Was I expected to pray?

At last, the police sergeant spoke: "How would you say, Doctor, did he die?”

I must have looked even more at a loss as I stared at him, speechless.

"Can you not tell by the look on his face?"

Just then the Undertaker arrived, puffing noisily. He came to the rescue. He first circled the body. Then he doffed his hat, squatted   and stared long and solemnly into the man's eyes. He stood and declaimed:

“He was walking and fell. He tried to get up. He felt a chest pain and suffered a massive heart attack. Then he died. ”

That did the job. Amid nods of acknowledgement and rueful head-shaking the body was lifted on a stretcher and the swift pace was resumed.

Twenty years later, I still don't know what it was all about. I have asked several GPs in rural areas if they had ever heard of anything like it. Nobody had. It must have been a peculiarity of the place, a tradition started by a doctor with a sense of drama in the days before post mortems were commonplace. I have never had the nerve to try saying it myself. "From the look on his face I would say…....."