Dialogue Volume 12 Issue 1 2016 | Page 19

Policy When can physicians provide care to those closest to them? illustration: nathalie dion T he College has approved a policy that sets out the circumstances in which it may be acceptable for physicians to provide treatment to individuals with whom they have a personal or close relationship. In its revised policy, Physician Treatment of Self, Family Members and Others Close to Them, the College maintains the position, based on the literature, that there are a number of ways in which compromised objectivity can manifest when physicians treat themselves and the people closest to them. “We understand that physicians wish to be of assistance to their loved ones by providing medical care,” said Dr. Joel Kirsh, College President. “However, relevant literature consistently indicates that a physician’s ability to maintain the necessary amount of emotional and clinical objectivity required for professional judgment can be compromised in this context.” The policy is included in this issue. A Frequently Asked Questions document has been developed to provide guidance to the profession on various issues raised in the policy. It is available on the website. 6 Things to know about the updated policy: 1. D  efines family members and others close to the physician as having a relationship of such a nature that it could reasonably affect the physician’s professional judgment to provide treatment to that individual; 2. P  rohibits physicians from providing treatment for themselves or family members, except in the limited circumstances of a minor condition or emergency and where another qualified health-care professional is not readily available; 3. A  dvises physicians to carefully consider whether it is appropriate to provide treatment to others close to them. If the relationship is of such a nature that it could reasonably affect the physician’s professional judgment, then the physician should not treat that individual except in the limited cir- cumstances set out in the policy; 4. Advises physicians that relationships can change over time and may need to be re-evaluated to determine that it is still permissible for the physician to treat a particular person; 5. Advises physicians that treating spouses or sexual/romantic partners beyond the limited exceptions of a minor condition or an emergency, and where another qualified health-care professional is not readily available, may give rise to a physician-patient relationship and as a result, the sexual abuse provisions of the legislation would apply; 6. Clarifies that the law prohibits physicians from prescribing, even in emergencies, certain drugs/ substances for themselves, family members or others close to them in a non-patient context. Changes made in response to consultation feedback •Specific examples of minor conditions have been included in the Terminology section of the policy; • The Frequently Asked Questions document explains that the policy applies to refills in the same manner as to new prescriptions; and • A discussion has been included in the Frequently Asked Questions document about the applicability of the policy to medical practice in rural and isolated communities. Issue 1, 2016 Dialogue 19