Demystifying Medicine One Month at a Time

Doctor, Don’t Treat Thyself. Or Family Members.

The day I started medical school, I called home to tell my parents about it. My mother, a hypochondriac, didn’t want to hear about the class schedule or the amount of work.

“I have a new rash I need you to take a look at,” she told me.

What did she think? That after one day, I’d suddenly been imparted all the knowledge I’d need to treat her? (As you’ll see later, I would come to wish that had happened.)

Silly Mom. As if I’d been admitted to some special club.

This comes up more often than you might think in medical practice. The ethics are fairly clear — it’s not illegal to treat family members or friends, but it’s unethical because those friends and family members cannot exercise their full autonomy when making medical decisions.

Just published on NPR’s Shots blog is a column I wrote about our experience caring for our daughter during this past winter’s flu season, and a couple of stories of familial ethical challenges from other doctors. Please click over and take a look. Thanks to Katherine Streeter for great collage art.

Gotta get me one of those “Dad” hats, but I’m not much into argyle.

2 Comments

  1. Kelly

    I’d still want to be treated by you family or not because you’re so special!

  2. Vic N

    OMB I dated a doctor once and no one knew. I was like he’s an employee for a local corporation. I never asked him to diagnose anything.

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