“There’s a bit of a reluctance to go,” the author, Bruce Arroll of the University of Auckland, told a physician client of BAC Medical Marketing in a phone interview recently. “You may not know many people there. You may not think it’s appropriate. But I think the opposite — the family is honored that you’re there.”
Going to funerals may be especially appropriate for family doctors, who are likely to have other patients at the funeral, Arroll suggests. In the article, he mentions two cases in which close relatives of deceased patients came to visit him at the clinic soon after seeing him at a funeral. “I was left with the impression that my attendance at the funeral was contributing to the resolution of grief in those two people,” he writes.
Arroll isn’t suggesting that all doctors go to patients’ funerals, or that any doctor go to every patient’s funeral. In the article, he notes dryly that “it may be wise to avoid funerals when the family is unhappy with care.”
But when we spoke on the phone, he mentioned a case where he had put a patient he was close to on a cholesterol-lowering drug. The man later died of liver cancer, and Arroll heard through the grapevine that the family thought the drug he’d prescribed had contributed to the man’s demise. Arroll didn’t go to the funeral, but he still wonders if he could have mended the rift with the family by doing so.
“I thought it might have been quite a healing thing for me to attend the funeral,” he said. “In retrospect, it would have been worth a gamble to ask their permission to go.”