Medicine: Prescription for Dying

When a patient is dying—whether from inoperable cancer in the prime of life, or from a degenerative disease of old age—Dr. Walter C. Alvarez prescribes kindness in two forms: frankness and indulgence.

Dr. Alvarez, 66, famed Mayo Clinic diagnostician, is editor of GP, monthly journal of the American Academy of General Practice. Addressing general practitioners in San Francisco last week, Alvarez counseled against lying to a dying patient or keeping up a cheerful farce for his supposed benefit. In one way or another, the patient usually finds out or guesses what his condition is, and then his miseries are increased by annoyance...

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