Do Friends and Family Ask You for Medical Advice?

August 09, 2017

How many times have you been cornered at a cocktail party by someone asking you to take a peek at a new freckle or put your ear to a creaky knee?  If you're like most clinicians, dispensing advice doesn't stop when you leave the office at the end of the day. You're probably asked for your medical opinion at weddings, funerals, bus stops, airports, supermarkets, and parking lots.

As helpful as you like to be, dispensing free medical guidance, especially to family, it isn't always the best idea. The American Medical Association (AMA) Code of Medical Ethics states: "Physicians generally should not treat themselves or members of their immediate families." The statement goes on to provide an extensive list of reasons, including that personal feelings may unduly influence medical judgment, difficulty discussing sensitive topics during a medical history, and concerns over patient autonomy.

Although the AMA's stance on advising friends and acquaintances is not as definite, it largely counsels against doing so.

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