On Being a Physician to Celebrities! : APIK Journal of Internal Medicine

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On Being a Physician to Celebrities!

Naik, Sadananda B.

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APIK Journal of Internal Medicine 11(2):p 135-136, Apr–Jun 2023. | DOI: 10.4103/ajim.ajim_86_22
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Celebrity is a person with great fame and broad as well as favorable public recognition and image. It is rewarding but often very challenging to be the physician to a celebrity and there are many virtues as well as shortcomings in this position of importance. This is a short write-up on what it takes to be a doctor to a celebrity.

Celebrities are like any other human beings who need to consult doctors for medical care. They select their doctors through word of mouth or by recommendations from their friends and relatives. Sometimes, celebrities do recommend their doctor to one another. Being persons of different social standing and status as compared to normal patients, their medical care may not be normal and often it could end up with either under or over-treatment. There is some risk of their medical care getting compromised as compared to common people.[1] High expectation, demand for speedy recovery coupled with a request for privacy and more importantly an expectation of better all-round care is the hallmark of celebrity medical care. The cost of the treatment would not matter in most of the cases. Invariably, the celebrities tend to take over the control of the doctor–patient relationship which could make the otherwise well-planned medical care complicated and compromised.

Celebrities make headlines so also their illnesses. The public and media will be unduly interested in the health of these public figures. The state could step in to enquire about the health condition of these public figures and may interfere with the medical care. This makes the doctors answerable not only to patients and family but also to the government, especially when the health condition of the celebrity is unstable. It is many times a daunting task to keep their health information confidential and provide absolute privacy to the celebrity while he/she undergoes medical treatment or even during their visit to the hospital/clinic. Another equally difficult problem is to protect and safeguard the celebrities from their fans during the medical visits. The very presence of the celebrity in the health-care system causes the set-up to go out of gear, jeopardizing the medical care of other patients being cared for. Moreover, if the celebrities begin to “go public” about their illnesses and treatments, things could get complicated further. Arranging separate entrances and exits for the celebrity during clinic/hospital visits and fixing medical appointments during nonpeak hours would pose additional burdens on the health-care institutions. Acceding to the oft-made request for a special, separate area in the clinic/hospital for the medical care of the celebrity could definitely compromise the quality of medical care offered to the celebrity and others. Furthermore, it is more difficult to retrieve health information in detail from the celebrities regarding their ailments or their past conditions, and medical history as compared to the common people. This could again be a major limiting factor in the medical care they receive. Curricula in medical schools hardly offer any training on how these special patients should be handled, barring a few “lucky” ones who get hands-on training if they happen to work under physicians who take care of celebrities.

Professional upliftment and automatic elevation in social status as a “celebrity medical doctor” are some incentives in the offing. Being a physician to a celebrity is considered as a “stamp of excellence” in the eyes of society and the common people. This could make several other celebrities to stand in line to seek medical care. Coveted honors and awards would be bestowed upon such doctors and it would not take much time to become a very popular and highly sought-after medical doctor. Professional colleagues generally seem to admire and appreciate publicly but vilify such “celebrity medical doctors” in private. This envy could surface in the form of unwarranted and bitter criticism when the things go wrong for the “celebrity doctor.”

When the celebrity patients get sick, their doctors too come under the spotlight and should be ready to lose their own privacy in addition to that of their celebrity patient. The ability and the clinical competence of the caregiver would come under intense public and media scrutiny, exposing and magnifying every limitation of the physician which might otherwise go unnoticed.[1] Things could turn ugly if something goes wrong in the treatment of the celebrity. The medical decision and treatment plan of the caregiver could be blatantly questioned and the physician should get ready to face a trial by the media, the public, and by professional colleagues. Baseless allegations and suggestions given as afterthoughts could pour in and the celebrity physician becomes a victim of negative propaganda and media trial. Brutal trolling on social media, public protests, and even police complaints by the fans of the celebrity could be a nerve-wracking and demeaning experience. The “celebrity doctor” may well turn out to be a villain in the eyes of the public and the fans of the celebrity in no time. The physician would be left all alone to defend himself and face legal enquiry and the consequent witch hunting unless the medical fraternity lends moral and legal support. The backlash from every quarter and self-blame for the unfavorable medical outcome could take an unimaginable toll on the professional career and mental peace of the physician.

The sorry plight and misery of the personal physicians of celebrities such as American pop superstar Michael Jackson,[2] Football legend Diego Maradona,[3] Bollywood movie star Sushant Singh Rajput,[4] and the latest in the list the Kannada cine superstar Puneeth Rajkumar[5] would be an eye-opener for the physicians of celebrities who are already at service and would be a warning for those who aspire to become one.

Though, there are no well-accepted guidelines or protocols to take care of a sick celebrity, here are a few tips to keep the physicians out of trouble.[1,6]

  • Keep oneself UpToDate with the happenings in the medical field
  • Always try to follow evidence-based medicine
  • Keep good rapport with professional colleagues and do not alienate them
  • Try not to bypass accepted medical norms just to please the celebrity and their family
  • Standard of medical care should be offered just like any other patient and every attempt should be made to adhere to health laws and protocols
  • Additional caregivers should be selected based on their expertise rather than their seniority or status
  • Avoid giving medical care in unfamiliar and ill-equipped places such as “VIP SUITES”
  • Do not be complacent or overconfident at any stage of medical care
  • Be prepared to give a summary of the illness and the medical care offered to the media
  • Respond judiciously to media inquiries at all times
  • While making a medical decision focus only on the human life in hand rather than the status of the person

Physicians who take up the medical care of celebrities need to have special training as their job involves this special patient subgroup. They need to be well versed in handling the media and should be prepared to handle additional levels of stress that their celebrity patients cause. Above all, all care should be taken to see that the celebrity status of the patients does not cloud their clinical judgment. The medical fraternity needs to back them up when they are targeted and victimized unfairly in the event of adversity.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


1. Groves JE, Dunderdale BA, Stern TA. Celebrity patients, VIPs, and potentates. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry 2002;4:215–23.
2. Doctor to be Sentenced for Michael Jackson's Death Available from:https://indianexpress.com/article/entertainment/entertainment-others/doctor-to-be-sentenced-for-michael-jacksons-death [Last accessed on 2021 Nov 11].
3. Diego Maradona Death:Seven Medical Professionals Charged with Homicide per Report Available from:https://www.cbssports.com/soccer/news/manchester-united-vs-man-city-bold-predictions-another-loss-incoming-for-ole-gunnar-solskjaer [Last accessed on 2021 Nov 11].
4. FIR against Sushant Singh Rajput's Sisters. Doctor after Rhea Chakraborty's Complaint Available from:https://www.oneindia.com/india/fir-against-sushant-singh-rajput-s-sisters-doctor-after-rhea-chakraborty-s-complaint-3145719.html?story=2 [Last accessed on 2021 Nov 11].
5. Puneeth's Doctor Gets Security Amid Fan Protests. Police Deployed Outside Residence Available from:https://www.news18.com/news/movies/puneeths-doctor-gets-security-amid-fan-protests-police-deployed-outside-residence-4413611.html [Last accessed on 2021 Nov 11].
6. The 5 Commandments of Treating Celebrity Patients. According to Cedars-Sinai Physicians Available from:https://www.advisory.com/en/daily-briefing/2018/11/27/high-profile-patients [Last accessed on 2021 Nov 11].

Celebrity; fans; illnesses; physician to celebrity

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