Margaret A.WinkerMD, Deputy EditorIndividualAuthorPhil B.FontanarosaMD, Interim CoeditorIndividualAuthor
Copyright 1999 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.1999
In Reply: Dr Vatcher and Dr Voth
help to highlight the loss of professional objectivity that may occur
when physicians self-prescribe. As Dr Tenery notes, the American
Medical Association's Code of Medical Ethics states, "Physicians
should generally not treat themselves or members of their immediate
family" because such activity compromises professional objectivity.
The code also states, however, that "there are situations in which
routine care is acceptable for short-term minor
problems."1 So where should the medical profession draw
the line? Vatcher supports the notion that "antibiotics may be a
problem," but it is acceptable to self-initiate asthma therapy and
"reach for an albuterol metered dose inhaler and get back to work."
In many instances, this kind of self-treatment may be perfectly
reasonable. However, we feel that a loss of objectivity with
self-treatment means that one can lose sight of not only where to draw
the line, but also—and perhaps more important—when the line has been
crossed. This may be even more of an issue, as Voth points out, when
the medications are sedatives or pain relievers.
Christie JD, Bellini LM, Rosen IM, Asch DA. Self-prescribing by Physicians—Reply. JAMA. 1999;281(16):1488-1490. doi:10-1001/pubs.JAMA-ISSN-0098-7484-281-16-jbk0428