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The greatest insult to the living

She sat in her chair and waited. Laid out on the table in front of her were the accoutrements of old age: the remote control and TV listings, the cold teapot and the sewing box with its needles and tightly-coiled cotton intestines.

She’d waited all night long but no-one came. If you’d opened the door that morning you would have seen how quiet she was, you would have seen her body listing awkwardly to one side and you would have seen her frozen face, expectant in the light. If you’d called out to her she would have been unable to answer. She had died during the night.

And so she waited, but the out-of-hours doctor never came. It wasn’t his job any more – the service didn’t have the money to provide the service and by failing to dignify the dead they had dealt the greatest insult to the living.

With the focus on budget cuts and austerity measures, I hope that policy-makers pause to think about the old lady in her chair. Because if they don’t, the light of human compassion, already flickering like a broken chandelier, may well go out forever.

Dr Kevin Hinkley is a GP in Aberdeen