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....Officiously to keep alive

Abstract

The case of a patient with an incurable condition which was bound to deteriorate is discussed in the light of two conceptions of medical care: the first, the traditional one of treating with all the means at the doctor's disposal until death `wins', the other to `let go' of his skills for the greater good of the patient and his family. The second course was adopted by the doctor looking after the patient described here after careful consultation with the daughter, who was living in her father's house and willing to look after him as long as was necessary. On the whole the doctor is commended by those contributing to the case conference, although it is recognized that the course of `action' adopted is still not yet fully accepted in modern society. (Both lay and medical opinion, however, seems to be moving towards that way of thinking.) Susan Thorne's contribution makes the suggestion that in cases where there seems to be a moral or ethical dilemma there might be some kind of counsellor available for those concerned in making the ethical and medical decisions, and in the addendum to the case conference a former general practitioner, now practising as a hospital doctor, points to the two different medical cultures exemplified by the attitudes of American and British doctors.

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