Death call etiquette – and hospital wakeups what time to call?

two person doing surgery inside room
Photo by Vidal Balielo Jr. on


Doesn’t anyone you care about die just after lunch so you can leave work early?

They hang on all bloody day then die in their sleep at 3am.

In the schadenfreude department at the hospital making a  call at 3am is extra sweet.

Lets imagine the schadenfreude department has just informed me about a death.

It’s just after 3am in the morning – I’m left with a dilemma.


Is it Hobson’s choice?

Sometimes there really is no choice.

I wake you up – not because you really need to know right now – the guy will still be dead.

I want you to be as miserable as I am.

May as well spread the pain around immediately rather than wait.

One time when a trouble shared is at least double trouble.


I didn’t kill him – why you mad?


I’m also afraid of your temper.

Suppose I wait till 8am – before I tell you.

“Why didn’t you tell me earlier?”

“He’s still dead.What difference does it make?”

I have learnt is not an empathetic response.

“Why are you shouting at me? He’s still dead.”

Doesn’t help either.


What if he doesn’t die?


Imagine if he has been in a serious accident and we can’t be sure if he is going to wake up.

You can’t be found in your bed having a really nice sleep.

It’s not socially acceptable.

You have to spend days and days without rest, pacing,drinking coffee, being ‘worried.’

Lets be practical.

If the guy wakes up -does he need his family there, immediately asking questions?

Lets be honest –  he can just about handle you once a year, at xmas.

Does he really want the Spanish inquisition just after he wakes up?

I know what I would want. To wake up gently in a nice quiet room and relax.

I don’t want to be  asked questions from an over-caffeinated family deprived of sleep.

“How are you?”

It can be a complicated question  – especially if you’ve just woken from a coma.

Side note :

Depending on your family this can be a good time to feign memory loss.


Being told of a death in person


As soon as you see the police office at the door – you know.

They don’t want to tell you straight away – they want to make you wait.

They want you to sit down first.

What are they scared of exactly?

I’ve already guessed the bad news, now you expect me to sit down and be polite because you find telling me difficult in some way?

I have to handle the shock and protect your little feelings?

Out with it and lets get on with the day.

I already know mine is going to be a lot worse than yours.

Thanks for stopping by and making me sit down while you struggle with the routine you’ve worked out.

You haven’t changed anything – but I have to be nice, and make out as if you’ve helped in some way.

You haven’t.

Would you like a cup of tea?


The right thing versus the social thing


Show some consideration. Go to bed early and get a good sleep.

This may be your last time for rest before the recovery.

That is when he will need your help.

These things are sometimes worth thinking about in advance.

It’s not as if they aren’t inevitable.

Perhaps they go in the same drawer as financial planning and pensions.

Do you make that call in the middle of the night or do you wait till morning?


To counter the fictional schadenfreude department of hospitals lets bring out the Buddhism.

Mudita is a Buddhist concept meaning taking pleasure in another persons happiness. Bring it on.

Details on wikipedia.






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