If you continue without changing your settings, we’ll assume you’re happy to receive all cookies from the BMA website. Find out more about cookies
When you visit any web site, it may store or retrieve information on your browser, mostly in the form of cookies. This information might be about you, your preferences or your device and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to. The information does not usually directly identify you, but it can give you a more personalised web experience.
Because we respect your right to privacy, you can choose not to allow some types of cookies. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings. However, blocking some types of cookies may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer.
These cookies are necessary for the website to function and cannot be switched off in our systems. They are usually only set in response to actions made by you which amount to a request for services, such as setting your privacy preferences, logging in or filling in forms.
You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not then work. These cookies do not store any personally identifiable information.
These cookies are required
These cookies allow us to know which pages are the most and least popular and see how visitors move around the site. All information we collect is anonymous unless you actively provide personal information to us.
If you do not allow these cookies we will not know when you have visited our site, and will not be able to monitor its performance.
These cookies allow a website to remember choices you make (such as your user name, language or the region you're in) and tailor the website to provide enhanced features and content for you.
For example, they can be used to remember certain log-in details, changes you've made to text size, font and other parts of pages that you can customise. They may also be used to provide services you've asked for such as watching a video or commenting on a blog. These cookies may be used to ensure that all our services and communications are relevant to you. The information these cookies collect cannot track your browsing activity on other websites.
Without these cookies, a website cannot remember choices you've previously made or personalise your browsing experience meaning you would have to reset these for every visit. In addition, some functionality may not be available if this category is switched off.
Our websites sometimes integrate with other companies’ sites. For example, we integrate with social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, to make it easier for you to share what you have read. These sites place their own cookies on your browser as a result of us including their icons and ‘like’ or ‘share’ buttons on our sites.
Dr Mark Taubert is a Consultant in Palliative Medicine at Velindre University NHS Trust
When I started working in palliative care, I did not at any point envisage that one day I would accompany a family I helped look after to the 2019 BAFTA Cymru Awards ceremony. But here we were, on a warm October evening at St David’s Hall in Cardiff, having walked in on a red carpet no less, alongside some big names from the world of media. I was there with the husband and son of one of my patients, Allyson, who only weeks before the ceremony had died from advanced cancer, and who had received oncology and palliative care input for several years from Velindre. She and I, together with many other staff, patients and relatives, had played a key part in the ITV Velindre Hospital of Hope mini-series, and some of our encounters were captured on camera. The programme won its category of best factual series at the BAFTA Cymru event, and that was that.
Allyson and her family wanted to live as normal lives as possible, and she had a long list of things she wanted to get done, many of which were achieved. I met many of her loved-ones during those years of looking after her. When she held a big party to renew her wedding vows to husband Colin, a lavish event at a marina restaurant in Penarth, I was invited and went along. It is fair to say that the boundaries between a doctor and patient, when you get to know each other well, can get blurred, but somehow, we knew that this was fine; in fact, Allyson even expressed the notion that if I were to decline her invite, she would understand.
Openness was always key, and she would often tell me in no uncertain terms whenever she thought my treatment plans were a bit doubtful, in her mind. We discussed many things, including whether further chemotherapy for her advanced cancer might prove overly burdensome or not, and whether there was benefit. I had some of the frankest discussions about do not attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation decisions that I have ever held with a patient, which is what she wanted; candour and honesty throughout. This is something we also discussed in front of the cameras, in the ‘intimacy’ of the consultation room upstairs in Velindre’s Rowan clinic. What the programme captured well, in my mind, is how our hospital aims to connect and integrate its many services in a meaningful way, so that many patients, even early on in their cancer diagnosis, can meet a palliative care and oncology professional together.
Not only did I attend Alyson’s wedding vow renewal ceremony - a first for me - I was also there at her funeral. The TV crew got to know her well too, accompanying her to the wedding dress shop and talking to her and her family in her house and in my clinics at the cancer centre. So when Colin, Luis (Allyson’s son) and I went up onto the stage at Bafta Cymru to be there when the trophy was handed over, we all thought of Allyson and the patients featured in the TV programme. I really felt that it was a very brave decision for a patient to decide to say yes to a television crew joining such personal and intimate discussions in healthcare, especially towards the end of her life. Perhaps, that is the reason that this does not happen very often. Suspending some of my own beliefs of what constitutes blurring such boundaries of a patient/doctor interaction, was also necessary, otherwise the conversations we held would not have been filmed at all.
The Allyson I got to know was always keen that her experience with advanced cancer should serve to educate and help others, and perhaps guide them with the complexity of such a serious illness. For instance, being clear which future treatments would seem acceptable and which would not. She accepted some interventions but said no to others when she felt the balance between benefit and quality of life was not met.
It was a privilege for these moments to be captured and to open up a conversation around palliative care. In medicine, boundaries are in place to protect both patients and doctors, but the lines do get blurred when you’re a part of someone’s important living moments - and I’m fine with that.