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  1. Jonathan White
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jonathan White, Associate Professor, Department of Surgery, University of Alberta, Room 409 Community Services Centre, Royal Alexandra Hospital, 10240 Kingsway, Edmonton AB T5H 3V9, Canada; jswhite1{at}

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The nurse stops me as I'm on my way past the desk: “Doctor, thank goodness you're here! Your patient Mr Jones passed away a while ago. Can you declare him?” Hmmm. Mr Jones, 90-something years old; I operated on him a few days ago, but post-op he kind of gave up the ghost. I had been expecting him to go downhill, but I hadn't actually heard he had died.

On the walk to the room it occurs to me, I haven't done this for a very long time. At least 10 years. I mean, when does a consultant surgeon ever have to declare one of his patients dead? It's a task usually done by those on …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.