Category Archives: dying

What a way to go

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 21.59.08Burying himself in The Bibliomania, or Book-Madness, Containing Some Account of the History, Symptoms and Cure of this Fatal Disease, by the Rev. Thomas Frognall Dibdin, Dalrymple enjoys the description of a man who,

on his deathbed, excitedly sent out for books from the catalogue of a bookseller, his obsession keeping him happy until the very moment of his death.

His library of 50,000 books was sold posthumously for a third of what it cost him,

but if the really important business of life is to die well, then no better death could be imagined.

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 22.23.37Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 22.20.36Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 22.18.49 Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 22.19.22 Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 22.21.54 Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 22.22.18 Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 22.23.57 Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 22.24.09

Advertisements

Black comedy in the ward

Like something from Hancock's Half Hour, only blacker

Like something from Hancock’s Half Hour, only darker

Once as a medical student, writes Dalrymple,

I was deputed by a hospital consultant to tell a family that their loved one was dying of lung cancer.

The imparting of such information was not regarded by the consultant as very important,

indeed he thought it almost a distraction from the serious business of curative medicine.

Without any guidance as to how to do it, Dalrymple told the family

in a very straightforward way, not because of any commitment to honesty but because I could think of no other.

To Dalrymple’s horror,

one of the relatives was very hard of hearing, so I had to raise my voice to so high a volume that my voice echoed round the ward. It would have been comical if it had not been so appalling.

In any case, the dying patient might have guessed that he was in a bad way because,

when the medical notes were put out at the end of the bed before the consultant’s ward round, those that contained a diagnosis of cancer were left out. In other words, if you were lying in bed and the notes failed to appear at the end of your bed, you knew the diagnosis was bad, despite the doctor’s assurance that it was ‘just a little ulcer’ in your lung or your bowel.

Why should the dying have all the best deaths?

Screen Shot 2016-04-09 at 11.04.23Dalrymple quips that it might be considered

whether confining euthanasia to the dying was illegitimate discrimination in their favour.

But he checks himself.

Perhaps one should not joke, bearing in mind that satire nowadays is prophecy.

How the noble die

Screen Shot 2015-07-18 at 22.37.30Dalrymple writes that he used to pass the time of day

with the husband of an elderly patient of mine who would accompany her to the hospital. One day, I found him so jaundiced that he was almost orange. At his age, it was overwhelmingly likely to mean one thing: inoperable cancer. He was dying. He knew it and I knew it; he knew that I knew it. I asked him how he was. ‘Not very well,’ he said. ‘I’m very sorry to hear that,’ I replied. ‘Well,’ he said quietly, and with a slight smile, ‘we shall just have to do the best we can, won’t we?’ Two weeks later, he was dead.

Dalrymple often remembers

the nobility of this quite ordinary man’s conduct and words. He wanted an appropriate, but only an appropriate, degree of commiseration from me; in his view, which was that of his generation and culture, it was a moral requirement that emotion and sentiment should be expressed proportionately, and not in an exaggerated or self-absorbed way. My acquaintance with him was slight; therefore my regret, while genuine, should be slight. (Oddly enough, my regret has grown over the years, with the memory.) Further, he considered it important that he should not embarrass me with any displays of emotion that might discomfit me. A man has to think of others, even when he is dying.

Guts spilling out of a sheep’s open belly

It was dead, wasn’t it, Theodore?