The relationship between doctors and patients has often been under discussion and has raised a lot of debate. We all know that it is ethically wrong for a doctor to date their patients or have intimate relationships with them; but is it even wrong to befriend them?
The emphatic relation often leads to the feeling of mutual understanding and may lead to friendship. In some cases, friendship becomes unavoidable, for example, a doctor lives in a small town he or she would have to meet other people at gatherings, festivals or events. Due to this, the doctor would find himself of herself in friendly activities with the people who could be under consultation. The question is that whether in his type scenario is friendship still wrong?
Professor of Bioethics on friendship with patients
Arthur Caplan, Professor of Bioethics at New York University's Langone Medical Center says that friendships which develop naturally are not unethical or dangerous. However, the problems arise when a doctor tries to enforce friendship upon people to gain advantages. If the friendship has developed naturally, there is nothing wrong with it. However, Caplan also advises the doctor to keep himself or herself under double check so that the friendship would not affect the judgment of the doctor. It is also ethically required of the doctor to keep the privacy of the patient’s records so whether friends or not, the doctor cannot gossip about any kind of patient’s data if it breaches their privacy.
Medical Case of Michael Jackson
The medical case of Michael Jackson is also often brought to light when the debate on the relation between a doctor and a patient arises. The case is considered as the bad judgment of the doctor due to the friendship between the doctor and the celebrity. However, Caplan and some other famous professors disagree. They believe that problem was the unnecessary belief of that doctor that he could handle all by himself. They blame the reluctance of the doctor to seek help rather than the friendship between the doctor and the patient.
What to do when patients try to gain advantage?
In some cases, a patient may want to gain advantages by enforcing a friendship upon a doctor. The advantages could be prescription according to the patient’s will, longer consultation hours, etc. In this case, it is required by the doctor to finish the relation by suggesting another physician and transferring patient history to the new physician of the patient properly. This should also be done if the doctor finds that the medical judgments are being affected by the friendship or a more intimate relationship has developed between the doctor and the patient.
Long story short, while a school of thought may believe that doctors should never be friends with patients, it is unavoidable in some scenarios. Many renowned ethicists still believe that there is nothing wrong with friendship if the doctor is following the rest of the ethics like the maintenance of patient’s privacy, neutral judgment, and suggestion of another doctor if unable to abide by the former two ethical rules.