Personal Relationships with Doctors While They are Treating You or a Close
Q: I had never read anything on your website or even heard of you until tonight
when I was searching for something else that led me to your page. You have not
addressed on your website a topic I would like to see an answer to.
Do the doctors ever become involved with patients families for reasons other
than for the purpose of keeping in touch regarding patient care in the home?
I had a relationship that was more than just "how's mom" with one
of your experts and I would like to know what really happened.
My real name can never be used and I will not tell you the name of the expert
unless it will never be discussed with him.
Maybe you can give me closure.
Dr. Donnica: I will never use your name for any reason, nor do I
need to know the identity of the expert involved. The issue you have raised
is a very delicate one and there is no simple answer. In general, the ethics
of medical practice would strongly discourage a physician from ever getting
involved in a relationship with a patient while they remain in a doctor-patient
relationship. However, in my opinion, there is nothing that is explicitly "wrong"
with a doctor getting involved with a family member of a patient so long as
both parties are consenting adults and the relationship wasn't entered into
under false pretenses or by exploiting what the physician knew to be an emotionally
charged situation. No confidential medical information should be discussed between
the doctor and the family member without the patient's permission.
In general, most physicians would still support delaying any significant involvement
until the doctor involved is no longer the treating physician of the family
member. If you feel that the doctor has initiated this relationship inappropriately,
or that you no longer care to be in the relationship, I recommend that you treat
the situation as you would treat any relationship: Discuss it with the person
involved and terminate the relationship. This is the only thing that will give
you closure. While we expect physicians to act according to certain professional
standards, we must remember that they often behave just like other people. Without
knowing any details of this relationship, I really can't comment any further.
With best regards,
Donnica Moore, M.D.
Created: 11/21/2003  - Donnica Moore, M.D.