Serious illness often precipitates crises in individual members of the family, crises which have not previously surfaced in the apparently balanced family system. It is recognised, for example, that bereavement over the unexpected loss of a child may lead to marital breakdown, separation or divorce. In the long term, other family members may be affected more than the patient. This may apply particularly to children and manifest as school underachievement and behaviour disturbances. During the crisis the obvious priority of the doctor is to the patient but the less obvious needs of the family should not be ignored.
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