More on doctors from Sunrise Rounds treating family and friends and the risks involved (see earlier post Why doctors shouldn’t treat their family and friends). Again, one of the main risks relates to the affective fallacy, and how that may cloud a doctor’s judgement.
However, people being people, it is somewhat natural for related doctors and patients to consult each other (we have a number of doctor friends that we consult for informal second opinions), but this should be in a supportive role, not as being responsible for medical treatment and care. Examples include helping know which questions to ask, giving a sense of whether side effects are normal, but all within being acutely aware of the limits and the need to defer to the treating physician.
Doctors should not be allowed to take control of the care of loved ones and in reverse should not demand real control, beyond that guaranteed to each patient and family. Treating physicians must be aware of potential guilt that can lead to controlling behavior and remember that improper control can amplify future guilt.
When a doctor or his family is ill they are patient or loved one. This is a special role that no one else can fill and is vital. By helping physician-patients focus on healing and not being responsible for care, we make the chance that they will return to healthy lives that much greater. For our friends and colleagues there can be no finer honor.