Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Doctor's Bedside Question Raises Question of Propriety

DEAR ABBY: Early this year my son was killed in an accident. A few weeks later I became ill and was hospitalized. My son's widow looked after me all those weeks. She was known at the hospital by her name and also as my daughter-in-law.

One of my doctors, standing close to her and right next to my bed, asked for and was granted permission to ask her a personal question -- "What happened to your husband?" Was it insensitive of him to ask that in my presence? -- UNSURE IN OKLAHOMA

DEAR UNSURE: Please accept my deepest sympathy for the loss of your son. The doctor asked for permission to inquire about something personal and it was granted. That said, if the doctor was aware that you had lost your son a short time ago and your daughter-in-law was a widow, the question could have been asked privately because death is often a subject that's painful to discuss when a person is grieving.

Read more in: Family & Parenting | Death | Etiquette & Ethics