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Physician Practices When a Patient Dies

David Major, MD
Arch Intern Med. 1985;145(7):1330-1333. doi:10.1001/archinte.1985.00360070212042.
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To the Editor.  —The article by Tolle and coauthors1 in the December 1984 issue of the Archives was an important contribution to improvement of the art of medical practice during one of its most difficult points in the natural history of disease, ie, patient death. My mentor and colleague, Wilbur W. Oaks, MD, former chairman of the Department of Medicine at the Hahnemann University, Philadelphia, made me cognizant of the utility of a personal letter to the family of deceased patients.For the last 15 years, I have been writing to families and teaching my students and house staff to follow this practice. I have focused carefully on the common denominators for such a letter, and I would like to share them with your readers.The letter begins with an expression of sympathy and ends with a reiteration of this expression. In between these sentiments, I personalize five messages.


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The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
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