Some years ago, Professor Bruce Arroll started to attend his patients' funerals. In this week's BMJ, he and a colleague explain why other doctors should consider going to their patients' funerals.
Attending the funeral of a patient allows the doctor to gain a complete picture of a patient's life and is a positive and affirming experience, they write.
AdvertisementTo many, having a doctor attend a loved one's funeral validates and emphasises the worth of that person.
It also highlights that in most cases our responsibility to the departed person extends to caring for their family in the wake of their death, they say. Being present at a funeral service can pave the way for the family to have an opportunity to talk about their experiences surrounding the death.
They acknowledge that regular funeral attendance will not fit all doctors.
It may also be wise to avoid funerals when the family is unhappy with care, they say, but suggest that asking the family for their permission to attend might facilitate reconciliation.
"Primary care providers usually have long term relationships with patients and their families, and we would argue that it is important to witness the end of the life journey of an individual," they write. "Our experience indicates that there are personal and family benefits to be gained and little to be lost."