Reasons Why Doctors Shouldn’t Treat Family Members or Friends

Why doctors should not treat family members?

Some people find it comforting that doctors can help treat their loved ones, while others find it terrifying. To put it another way, as a doctor, anyone in your intimate circle can ask for your professional advice on their health. However, the urge to prescribe medication, sign paperwork, or criticize colleagues is real.

Depending on the nature of the medical problem, your relationship, and the personalities involved, there could be many reactions. Should you assist them or keep their personal and professional lives separate? So, here’s why doctors shouldn’t treat family members or friends.

What Are There Benefits of Treating Your Friends and Family As A Doctor?

Accepting medical responsibility for a friend or family member can improve their health. Your clinic might be a “home base” for relatives and friends terrified of hospitals. Even if they don’t believe in doctors, your words of encouragement may be all it takes to get them to do that test or start taking that medication. When it comes to the well-being of the individuals you care about, you may also want to provide careful attention to every last detail. You can rest easier knowing that things get finished when you and your team can provide adequate follow-up.

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Treating Yourself or Your Immediate Family Members

In most cases, doctors should avoid caring for their friends and family members. When a doctor’s close relative or the doctor himself is ill, the doctor’s ability to maintain professional impartiality may be damaged, and the doctor’s personal feelings may interfere with their medical judgment. When taking a patient’s medical history or performing a physical examination, doctors may neglect to ask personal questions or examine private regions.

Similarly, having a doctor in the patient’s immediate family can make the patient and the doctor uncomfortable. When the patient is a child, this becomes much more important. Thus any personal or touching care should be avoided. When treating themselves or members of their close family, doctors may be tempted to provide care that is outside of their area of specialty.

A physician’s relationship with a patient’s family might be negatively impacted if tensions arise between the doctor and the patient’s loved one during their professional relationship, for example, due to an unfavorable medical outcome.

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Patient autonomy and informed consent are also concerns when doctors treat loved ones. Family members may be hesitant to deny a doctor’s advice or express a preference for another doctor for fear of upsetting the doctor. Mainly, children under the majority are not likely to feel they have the autonomy to refuse parental care. Similarly, doctors may feel pressured to treat members of their own family, even if doing so makes them uneasy.

Self-treatment and treating close relatives are two examples of situations in which it would be acceptable to act. Physicians should not feel uncomfortable treating themselves or their families in times of emergency or in remote areas where there is no other trained physician accessible. Although doctors shouldn’t be family members’ primary or frequent care providers, there are times when that’s fine for minor issues. Prescriptions for prohibited medications should never be written by doctors for themselves or their family members, with rare exceptions.

Are There Risks of Treating Friends and Family?

Unfortunately, providing medical care for friends and family can lead to awkward disagreements and even legal issues, even if your intentions are pure. Even if doing so can be so much easier, like simply purchasing medicines online, like, at, it may not be a good thing still.

For instance, you may get a snippet of the whole story. One of my friends informed me that her doctor was dismissing her worries, and I found myself in a similar situation. She gave me just enough information to misdiagnose the condition in a casual talk. Her doctor was kind enough to call me and fill me in on a crucial piece of her tale that she had left out when she told him about my diagnosis. Thankfully, her health was unharmed, but her doctor’s time was wasted, and I avoided her at all costs.

Your medical practice is at risk if you treat friends and family members. A coworker’s acquaintance went to the doctor complaining of neck pain but afterward changed the doctor’s report to improve a disability case.

The document was suspected of being forged since the language used did not match the doctor’s usual usage of medical terminology. Some uncomfortable probing revealed that the patient had mistakenly assumed that, because they were friends, the doctor wouldn’t “call him out.” Although the doctor was not held accountable since they never signed the phony report, things may have gone south if the doctor had been suspected of dishonesty.

Decide Where You Draw the Line

Friends and family members may surprise you with pleas for assistance, and you may gladly fulfill some of them while ignoring others. You would advise your buddy to go to the hospital immediately if she developed a 105-degree temperature and began vomiting blood. However, you should avoid it if a friend with persistent stomach pain tries to score some drugs.

Similarly, you may feel trapped or worried that your remarks will be misconstrued to involve you in your loved one’s wrong choice if they try to put words in your mouth regarding their high cholesterol.

As a doctor, you never know what kind of sticky circumstances you’ll run into in a social or familial setting, and you may have to make snap decisions about how to handle them.

Current opinion in Anesthesiology notes the recurring difficulty of determining how to handle the ethical question of whether or not a clinician should treat a patient who is a member of their own family. It’s not unlawful to treat friends and family, but you still need to follow the same billing and documentation standards you would with any other patient. This is why all doctors must study how to establish limits without damaging patient-doctor bonds.

In a recent issue of Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics, the authors claim that while treating close friends and family members, most doctors have trouble striking a fair balance between their professional and personal responsibilities. If a family member cannot communicate their medical concerns to doctors because of a language barrier or mental impairment, you may feel obligated to step in.

However, it’s best to put distance between yourself and a friend or family member when you get the impression they’re trying to utilize your closeness to them to get you to break the rules.

When you have to refuse a request from a friend or family member, explain that you must follow the law, which prohibits you from providing some services (such as making an appointment, accepting insurance, or prescribing medication). It’s a rare occasion when complex healthcare regulations work in your favor.

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Sustaining a Sense of Duty While Providing for Others

Medical caregiving is a serious obligation, and if you want to take on that role for a friend or family member, you should do so with professionalism and clear boundaries.  Your patient/neighbor could presume you’d take care of getting him an X-ray if you casually broach the topic to them while shopping. However, if your clinic’s coordinator is responsible for scheduling tests, your buddy must go through that procedure to arrange the exam. Maintain uniformity in your practice, even when treating friends and relatives.

It’s helpful when doctors treat relatives and friends, but the situation can get complicated. Building personal standards help protect your relationships and your professional standing.

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