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Wednesday 23rd May 2018

Doctors should not treat family

21st October 2009

Medical Defence Union adviser Dr John Holden warns doctors they should avoid treating family members.


Many of us are happy to call on the expertise of family members when we have a problem and doctors will tell you the same often happens to them when health problems arise.

But this not only holds problems for the doctors but is generally not in the long-term interests of the patient.

There may be occasions, such as in remote communities served by a one-practice GP or in an emergency where the is no-one else available and the GP has an ethical obligation to provide immediate medical care, where there is little alternative.

But in general, doctors should avoid treating family and friends. That point is made by the General Medical Council in guidance because GP’s can risk jeopardising their livelihood as a result.

But why is treating family and friends such an ethical minefield?

The MDU says it is too easy, when treating someone close, for a doctor’s judgement to be clouded by their relationship with them.

Take the example of a teenager girl. She may not tell her GP father that she is taking the contraceptive pill, but if he unknowingly prescribes antibiotics in an emergency which prevent the pill from working, the risks are obvious.

Then there are intimate examinations.

People should have their own GP responsible for medical care rather than a GP relative. It ensures objectivity and continuity of care.

The message is simple: if you need medical treatment, please don’t be tempted to keep it in the family.


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Peter Briody

Saturday 24th October 2009 @ 9:22

There are more sinister reasons for doctors not to treat family members: Take the case of Kalinka the 14-year old French-Polish girl who lost her life, mysteriously in 1982. Her German step-father, who was a doctor at the time, is currently before court in Paris accused of her murder.

It is alleged that Kalika was anesthetized and raped by her step-father in 1982. (The step-father is a convicted paedophile as a result of another case with similar dimensions). He has admitted giving the child injections, but later claimed these to be harmless. He was subsequently allowed to participate in the Autopsy on the child. Sometime later, all the relevant evidence “disappeared” including the child’s external and internal genitals as well as the pelvis.

We are drafting a set of laws - “Kalinka’s Laws” - to:

1. Prohibit the practice of treating of family members by physicians, except in emergencies. Any such emergency treatment is to be recorded and reported forthwith to the authorities.

2. An absolute prohibition of continued treatment after the relative’s death.

It would be interesting to hear opinions.

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