Should Doctors Examine, Diagnose and Treat Their Family Members?
In a 1991 study of physicians published in the New England Journal of Medicine:99% of 465 physicians surveyed had requests from family members for medical advice, diagnosis and treatment.
Family members included spouses, children, parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, in-laws, aunts, uncles and cousins. Eighty-three percent of physicians had prescribed medication for a family member, 80% had diagnosed medical illnesses, 72% had performed physical examinations, 15% had acted as a family member's primary doctor, and 9% had performed surgery on a family member.In addition, 152 (33 percent) reported that they had observed another physician "inappropriately involved" in a family member's care, and 103 (22 percent) had acceded to a specific request about which they felt uncomfortable.
The American Medical Association Medical Code of Ethics Opinion 8.91 (1993)"Self-Treatment or Treatment of Immediate Family Members" states the following:
Opinion 8.19 - Self-Treatment or Treatment of Immediate Family Members
Physicians generally should not treat themselves or members of their immediate families. Professional objectivity may be compromised when an immediate family member or the physician is the patient; the physician’s personal feelings may unduly influence his or her professional medical judgment, thereby interfering with the care being delivered. Physicians may fail to probe sensitive areas when taking the medical history or may fail to perform intimate parts of the physical examination. Similarly, patients may feel uncomfortable disclosing sensitive information or undergoing an intimate examination when the physician is an immediate family member. This discomfort is particularly the case when the patient is a minor child, and sensitive or intimate care should especially be avoided for such patients. When treating themselves or immediate family members, physicians may be inclined to treat problems that are beyond their expertise or training. If tensions develop in a physician’s professional relationship with a family member, perhaps as a result of a negative medical outcome, such difficulties may be carried over into the family member’s personal relationship with the physician.
Concerns regarding patient autonomy and informed consent are also relevant when physicians attempt to treat members of their immediate family. Family members may be reluctant to state their preference for another physician or decline a recommendation for fear of offending the physician. In particular, minor children will generally not feel free to refuse care from their parents. Likewise, physicians may feel obligated to provide care to immediate family members even if they feel uncomfortable providing care.
It would not always be inappropriate to undertake self-treatment or treatment of immediate family members. In emergency settings or isolated settings where there is no other qualified physician available, physicians should not hesitate to treat themselves or family members until another physician becomes available. In addition, while physicians should not serve as a primary or regular care provider for immediate family members, there are situations in which routine care is acceptable for short-term, minor problems. Except in emergencies, it is not appropriate for physicians to write prescriptions for controlled substances for themselves or immediate family members.
All of the above was written from the aspect of the physician but what I would like to know is whether if you are or if you might be the family member of a physician, to what extent, if at all, would you want the "doctor in the family" participating in the diagnosis, advice or treatment of your illness? ..Maurice.