Treating Family Members
This is probably the most commonly recognized conflict of interest. It has been traditional for physicians to treat their colleagues’ families without charge to discourage physicians from treating their own families. [Wasserman RC, Hassuk BM, Young PC, Land ML. Medical care of physicians’ children. Pediatrics. 1989;83:319–322.] This professional courtesy is a recognition that objective decision making is critical to medical care and that this objectivity is impossible for someone who is emotionally involved with the patient. Treating one’s own family can lead to disharmony and guilt if the treatment is not successful. Although it is generally not illegal to treat a family member, many states limit the drugs that may be prescribed. Ideally, physicians and their family members will seek care from physicians who are not close friends or colleagues. This helps ensure objectivity and avoids the conflicts inherent in confiding personal information to colleagues or friends. [Lane LW, Lane G, Schiedermayer DL, Spiro JH, Siegler M. Caring for medical students as patients. Arch Intern Med. 1990;150:2249–2253.]