Audio-recordings of naturally occurring conversations over a three-month period between five nurses in a Symptom Control Team and fifty four terminally ill cancer patients and their relatives in their own homes form the focus of this study. The SCT nurses specialised in the care of the dying but did not carry out ‘hands on’ nursing which was given by community nurses. The SCT nurses carried out their work through ‘talk’. The main aim of the study is therefore, through analysis of the audio-recordings, to determine how conversational interactions are used by nurses, patients and relatives in dealing with the process of dying. The aspect of the study discussed in this paper deals with the process at first home visits whereby the nurses, patients and relatives establish ‘family’ memberships and determine eligible sources of help in relation to expected sets of rights and obligations.