AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

Journal of Ethics Header

AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

Virtual Mentor. January 2005, Volume 7, Number 1.

Module 6

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Case 6.4: Treatment of Family Members and Significant Others—All in the Family

Option Assessment

A.  

Telling Michael she can take over writing the prescription for him now that he knows what he should be taking should be avoided. Code Opinion 8.19 states that "Except in emergencies, it is not appropriate for physicians to write prescriptions for controlled substances for...immediate family members."

B.  

Telling Michael she will write the prescription this time only because it is an emergency may be an acceptable alternative that does not violate the Code. Opinion 8.19, "Self-Treatment or Treatment of Immediate Family Members" states: "Except in emergencies, it is not appropriate for physicians to write prescriptions for controlled substances for...immediate family members."

C.  

Asking a staff psychiatrist at the hospital to write the prescription is preferable because there is another physician available who will be in a better position to judge this request by Michael, and because this would remove Dr. Green from a potential conflict of interest. Indeed, the Code (in Opinion 8.19, "Self-Treatment or Treatment of Immediate Family Members") allows treatment of family only "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."

D.  

Telling Michael to find another way to get the prescription filled is an acceptable alternative that is supported by the Code in Opinion 8.19, "Self-Treatment or Treatment of Immediate Family Members" when it admonishes physicians to avoid the role of primary physician for family members because: "physicians may feel obligated to provide care to immediate family members even if they feel uncomfortable providing care."

Compare these options

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