Why? … because. This commentary to John Skelton's paper (Skelton, 2003, this issue) addresses the question, ‘Why should I, a busy consultant serving a population of 40 000 in north Lincolnshire and having considerable difficulty in keeping up with the latest developments about antipsychotic drugs, use my precious time for CPD reading about death and dying in literature?’ The answer is two-fold: death and dying is intrinsically an important and relevant subject for psychiatrists; and literature gives useful opportunities for modelling, comparing, contrasting and experimenting with circumstances removed from the patient's immediate situation but still recognised as ‘real life’. Great literature demonstrates authenticity. If the experiences described are true to life, perhaps the strategies that were used in this literary work, or are suggested through their absence, may be effective in your patient's (or even your own) predicament. Literature, or ‘the humanities', can enhance good practice in medicine (Evans & Greaves, 1999).