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 Comparison

It is in the best interests of both patients and physicians to avoid having a family member act as the primary physician. Although this may be necessary at times, it should be avoided whenever possible. Accordingly, it is acceptable for Dr. Green to refuse to write the prescription for her brother (option D). Because this is short-term, however, and the failure to fill the prescription has significant risks, option B is also acceptable. Option C (consulting the staff psychiatrist) is preferable to both options B and D because it provides Michael with an alternative means of procuring the refill. Finally, option A, taking on the responsibility of writing Michael's prescription for the foreseeable future, should be avoided.

Preferable: Option C

Acceptable: Options B and D

Avoid: Option A

Additional discussion and information

The people and events in this case are fictional. Resemblance to real events or to names of people, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. The viewpoints expressed on this site are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the AMA.