Physicians should avoid treating family, friends, themselves

It is understandable that doctors want to help when asked by family members or friends to review test results and discuss treatment choices. But regardless of any possible extenuating factors, physicians should not treat family, friends, or themselves, unless it is for a minor condition or in response to a medical emergency.

Maintaining a professional relationship with patients allows doctors to provide objective, quality treatment. Having a personal relationship can potentially compromise a physician’s objectivity and professional judgment, and patients may suffer as a result. Similar challenges arise when physicians opt to assess and treat their own medical conditions.

The Canadian Medical Association’s Code of Ethics (section 20), as well as guidelines and policies of most provincial and territorial medical regulatory authorities (Colleges) underscore the reality that treating family, friends, or oneself is generally not in the best interests of patients or physicians.

Physicians who choose to do so run the risk of being the subject of a College complaint and potentially facing serious discipline. It is also possible that should a physician provide medical services to a family member (even a friend) who then acts on that advice and suffers harm as a result, that physician may be subject to a legal action.

For more information on treating family, friends, or oneself, see "Know the rules, avoid the risks: Treating family and friends."