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April 28, 1999

Self-prescribing by Physicians—Reply

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 1999;281(16):1488-1490. doi:10-1001/pubs.JAMA-ISSN-0098-7484-281-16-jbk0428

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.

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