Many medical professionals receive requests from family and friends asking for medical advice and treatment. But should medics treat their family? Ethically can we treat, or refuse to treat, family members? This is a common ethical challenge that most doctors face during their career and there is limited evidence available. By examining ethical principles, we aim to answer these questions and provide a framework that will guide decision making in this area.
There is a paucity of evidence available. Many ethical systems exist and have been discussed since ancient Greece but in recent years, bioethics has become more prominent in medical thinking and debate.
We examine ethical systems such as virtue ethics, utilitarianism, deontology and principlism and how they relate to treating family members. We then look at cases in different contexts and describe a system for approaching such cases, allowing doctors to conform to moral standards, and consider ethical arguments, prior to embarking upon any treatment course with a relative.
aSpecialist Trainee in Anaesthesia, Department of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine
bConsultant in Intensive Care Medicine and Anaesthesia, Department of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine, Royal Alexandra Hospital, Paisley, UK
Correspondence to Paul C. McConnell, MB, ChB (Hons), FRCA, EDIC, FFICM, Consultant Intensive Care Medicine, Royal Alexandra Hospital, Paisley PA2 9PJ, Scotland. Tel: +0141 314 6609; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org