Do Doctors Treat Themselves?

Do Doctors Treat Themselves?

Do Doctors Treat Themselves?

People often wonder, do doctors treat themselves?

Sometimes doctors prescribe their own treatment, however, this can be VERY dangerous. Doctors are by their nature, better than the general public at determining if their symptoms are something serious or not. So some doctors may choose to treat something minor. They will prescribe relatively safe medications for easy to diagnose non-life threatening conditions. See the AMA policy: Treating Self or Family. They mention “In general, physicians should not treat themselves or members of their own families.” But  it may be okay in emergencies or “for short term minor problems”.

There are several unique concepts to understand before self-treating.

  1. Why being a VIP patient can actually be a bad thing. See – Caring for VIPs: Nine principles.
  2. We give THE BEST CARE POSSIBLE to our patients.
  3. Doctors are better than the general public at knowing when a symptom can be a sign of something concerning

VIP Treatment Can Lead To Deviations In Care

While it seems intuitive that “being a VIP” like a celeb or a president may be a good thing, it can actually lead to deviations from the standard of care. Mariano and McLeod, who have cared for 3 American presidents, offered three directives for caring for VIPs: Vow to value your medical skills and judgment, Intend to command the medical aspects of the situation and Practice medicine the same way for all your patients. see their chapter.

While that may be simple, there are other issues. Often times, VIPs want to be treated by the head of of the department – this is known as “Chairperson syndrome”. Sometimes, the best doctors for treating a patient are NOT the heads of departments. Being the head of a department doesn’t guarantee that you are any more of an expert than another doctor in your department. In some cases, the head of a department may be LESS qualified than another doctor.

VIP’s may want to be treated in ‘nicer parts of the hospital’. However, the room with a better view may be further from the Code Cart. Or the room with the nicer TV may not have the same monitors as a small room with the uncomfortable bed and no TV.

Changes In Standard Care Are Not Always For the Best

So the LOGIC is as follows: Sometimes doctors are asked to treat “special patients” -> doctors give the BEST CARE POSSIBLE to their “REGULAR” patients -> being a VIP may lead to an alteration in the “standard of care”. It follows that if we always give the best care then any change in our standard care is a change for the WORSE!!!

So what’s the final point? Well, as a doctor, you can think of yourself as the biggest VIP you will ever treat. Your opinion is often biased and unreliable.

However, after saying all that, let’s take one last look at concept #3. Doctors tend to know which symptoms are concerning and which are not. While this is also subject to bias, there are certain symptoms and syndrome that are almost ALWAYS harmless. Doctors know this. This is why the AMA recommends that doctors could consider treating themselves “for short term minor problems”.

So for all doctors reading this – pay extra attention. If you are treating VIPs, your friends, or yourself then treat them the right way -> the same way you treat the homeless patient off the streets or the elderly patient with dementia. Treat them with the best care possible!