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Most families are loving and caring. But sadly some are not.

by Baroness Ilora Finlay, President of the British Medical Association, The Economist, 22 June 2015

Jenny (not her real name) was a week or so short of her sixtieth birthday when she came into the hospice. She had advanced cancer and she, and her family, knew the end was close. And her family were devoted. Not a day went by without one or more of them at her bedside.

We stabilised Jenny’s condition; she was comfortable, more independent and able to have quality time with her family. And, as often happens with good palliative care, the prospect of her imminent death receded. Then came her birthday. It was a muted affair, but understandably so as it was clearly her last.

But then the family visits gradually fell away. “It’s a pity your family can’t come so often these days,” one of the nurses said to Jenny. “Oh,” she replied. “They won’t be in so much now. You see, my fixed-term life insurance expired on my birthday.”

This isn’t the only time I’ve been fooled. Most patients’ families are loving and caring. But sadly some are not, and they are not the rare exception.

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