When Physicians Intervene in Their Relatives' Health Care

Scarff, Jonathan; Lippmann, Steven
June 2012
HEC Forum;Jun2012, Vol. 24 Issue 2, p127
Academic Journal
Physicians often struggle with ethical issues surrounding intervention in their relatives' health care. Many editorials, letters, and surveys have been written on this topic, but there is no systematic review of its prevalence. An Ovid Medline search was conducted for articles in English, written between January 1950 and December 2010, using the key words family member, relatives, treatment, prescribing, physician, and ethics. The search identified 41 articles (editorials, letters, and surveys). Surveys were reviewed to explore demographics of these treating physicians and reasons for and against intervention. Physicians often intervene directly or indirectly in the health care of relatives. The most common reasons were convenience, cost savings, and the perception of having greater knowledge or concern than colleagues. Lost objectivity, fear of misdiagnosis, and inability to provide complete care were the main considerations against intervention. The characteristics of treating doctors were nonspecific. Most surveys recommend against this practice except for emergencies or minor ailments. This review included only a few surveys with small sample size and only assessed scientific literature written in English after 1950. Survey data may be biased by physicians' self-reporting. In conclusion, most doctors occasionally intervene in their relatives' care. The decision to do so is determined by multiple factors. Physicians should treat only short-term or minor illnesses within their scope of practice. Future research should evaluate doctors' attitudes toward their relatives, medical student feelings about treating family, and intervention frequencies of medical and nonmedical professionals.


Related Articles

  • Query.  // CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal;5/22/2007, Vol. 176 Issue 11, p1672 

    The author reflects on the effects of giving a wrong medication prescription on the patient and the doctor. He states that he is blamed for giving a medication to the patient of his colleague who complains of adverse effects. He adds that he was irritated when his colleague confronted him in...

  • Doctors told to shun rewards from industry as size of payments become clear. Charatan, Fred // BMJ: British Medical Journal (International Edition);2/4/2006, Vol. 332 Issue 7536, p255 

    The author describes a leading article in the "Journal of the American Medical Association" which advises doctors to shun gifts from pharmaceutical companies, who spend more than $20 billion a year on advertising. Evidence suggests that the size of the gift doesn't matter in influencing doctor...

  • National Trends In Use Of Medications In Office-Based Practice, 1985–1999. Burt, Catharine W. // Health Affairs;Jul/Aug2002, Vol. 21 Issue 4, p206 

    Discusses the increasing physician office visits involving the use of drug prescription between 1985 and 1999 in the U.S. Use of data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey; Percentage of prescription rate increase; Variation of the growth in drug rates for specific therapeutic classes.

  • Docs Don't Dish About Meds. Ruder, Kate // Diabetes Forecast;Feb2007, Vol. 60 Issue 2, p18 

    The article discusses research being done on the attitude of physicians when it comes to providing critical information when prescribing new medications. It references a study Derjung M. Tarn and colleagues, published in the September 2006 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine. The study...

  • A Survey of Patient Sources of Prescription Drug Information. Morris, Louis A.; Grossman, Ruth; Barkdoll, Gerald L.; Gordon, Evelyn; Soviero, Carmin // American Journal of Public Health;Oct84, Vol. 74 Issue 10, p1161 

    Abstract: A national telephone survey of 1,104 adults who had recently obtained a new prescription was undertaken to determine the nature and amount of drug information obtained. Sixty percent stated that physicians provided directions for use information with the pharmacy reported as about half...

  • Conclusion: the Arthur case revisited. Gillon, Raanan // British Medical Journal (Clinical Research Edition);2/22/1986, Vol. 292 Issue 6519, p543 

    Analyzes the legal case involving doctor Arthur on wrong prescription of dihydrocodeine and the nursing care for a newborn infant with Down's syndrome. Principles for medicomoral dilemmas; Scope of moral obligations; Characteristics of infants that are morally relevant.

  • Providing care as a Good Samaritan. Fryar, Caroline // GP: General Practitioner;5/15/2009, p42 

    The article reports on a survey of physicians conducted by the Medical Defence Union in Great Britain. According to the survey, more than 40% of doctors have provided good samaritan emergency care more than once in their careers. It suggests that general practitioners should consider their legal...

  • Mary Selby: It's time to drop the haloes. Selby, Mary // GP: General Practitioner;7/12/2004, p47 

    Much has been written about patients who complain, about what one go through when they do, and about the unfairness of not being able to complain back, shackled by ethics and crippled by pragmatism. Any patient can telephone the local paper and tell them that a GP has said he was a fat-faced...

  • The role of the family in patient care. Slowther, Anne-Marie // Clinical Ethics;2006, Vol. 1 Issue 4, p191 

    The article reports on the significant role played by the family in patient care. It mentions that some of the source of ethical concern are the conflict between clinicians and families, and between family members. In determining what is in the best interests of a patient who lacks capacity to...


Read the Article


Sorry, but this item is not currently available from your library.

Try another library?
Sign out of this library

Other Topics