Ethical Issues in Treating Self and Family Members

The most important people in a physician’s life are spouses, siblings, parents and children. These same people have all reasons to be beneficiaries from the physician’s medical expertise and knowledge. However, the American Medical Association (AMA) clearly states that, “Thou shalt NOT care for thy family member” (Christman, 2011). According to the Code of Medical Ethics Opinion 8.19 of AMA on treatment of immediate family and self, physicians should in general not treat family members or themselves (Anyanwu, Abedi and Onohwakpor 2014).

Ethical Dilemmas

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One ethical dilemma according to Christman (2011) is that when a physician is trying to treat immediate family member or  self, he or she may be inclined to treat problems beyond his/her expertise. The physician may also fail in probing sensitive areas on the immediate family while taking medical history. In this second ethical dilemma, he/she may also fail to examine intimate parts while doing physical examination. A physician in this position should seek assistance from a colleague. The third ethical dilemma is the probability of compromising professional objectivity where the physician personal feelings unduly influence their judgment.

Another ethical dilemma faced by physicians as explained by Christman (2011) is the feeling of obligation of providing care to immediate family members even when they are uncomfortable to care about them. Also, family members may be unwilling to decline a recommendation in preference of another physician due to fear of hurting the physician. Also it is highly possible to carry tensions related to negative medical outcome in to the personal relationship between the physician and the family member. Another ethical dilemma is in concern to the patient’s informed consent and autonomy which can preclude treatment.

Laws of Self and Family Members Treatment

According to American Medical Association, “Code of Medical Ethics” opinion 8.19 Anyanwu, Abedi and Onohwakpor (2014) explain that a physician should not treat himself or immediate family members. It is inappropriate for physicians to write prescriptions for controlled substances for their immediate family members and self unless on emergencies.


Anyanwu, Abedi, & Onohwakpor,. (2014). Ethical Issues in Treating Self and Family Members. Science And Education Publishing, 2(3). Retrieved from

Christman, K. (2011). AMA Attacks Physicians Caring for Their Families. Journal Of American Physicians And Surgeons, 16(3). Retrieved from

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