Self-Prescribing and Prescribing to Family

Prescription padAlthough Virginia does not prohibit health care providers from providing medical care to themselves or their close family members, Virginia law sets strict parameters surrounding prescribing. It is important to consider certain ethical and legal guidelines before pursuing this option. Otherwise, healthcare professionals may encounter significant licensing issues or disciplinary actions in the future.

The Ethical Guidelines of Self-Treating or Treating Family Members

According to the American Medical Association (AMA) Code of Medical Ethics, a doctor should not treat themselves or their family members. The AMA states the below reasons for this conclusion:

  • pills in a medical professional's handsA doctor’s professional objectivity can be altered when a family member or they are the patient.
  • The doctor’s personal feelings may unduly influence their professional medical decision.
  • The doctor may not ask about sensitive areas when looking into the medical history, or they may not perform intimate parts of the physical examination.
  • Patients may not feel comfortable discussing sensitive information with the doctor or going through intimate examinations when the doctor is a family member.
  • When a doctor is treating their family or themselves, they may be inclined to treat issues or problems that are above their training or expertise.
  • Patients may be afraid to state their desire of having a different doctor or turn down a recommendation out of worry they will offend their physician family member.
  • A doctor may feel as if they are obligated to provide care to family members, even if they do not feel comfortable doing so.

In addition, it is not uncommon for some insurance providers to ban payment for the care that a doctor provides to their immediate family members, even if the examination or care was provided in an office setting. As a result, before you treat a family member or yourself, you need to be aware of the consequences that may arise from this treatment.

The Situations Where It Is Appropriate To Self-Treat or Medically Care for Family Members

The AMA does cite certain times when it may be appropriate for a doctor to treat immediate family members or undertake self-treatment. These situations generally include emergencies or times when no other qualified medical professional is available.

The AMA also does not see an issue with a doctor providing family members with standard care for a short-term minor medical problem. However, it is not proper for the doctor to write prescriptions for controlled substances for themselves or other immediate family members, except in an emergency.

What Virginia Expects

If a provider elects to self-prescribe or prescribe to family members, the Virginia Board of Medicine expects providers to establish a bona fide physician-patient relationship, maintain proper documentation, and to perform appropriate workups and histories as needed. In short, a provider should abide by the same standards they are required to maintain for any other patient.  Most importantly, Virginia law prohibits providers from self-prescribing or prescribing to family any Schedule I-V drugs unless  it is done in an emergency situation, there is no other qualified provider available, or  it is for a single episode of an acute illness.

Contact Goodman Allen Donnelly Today for More Information

At Goodman Allen Donnelly, our legal team can provide clients with legal advice and assistance related to a variety of issues, including:

  • Corporate governance
  • Healthcare regulatory guidance
  • Medical staff and patient care issues
  • Compliance plans
  • Internal audits
  • Other healthcare policies and programs

With our extensive experience defending public and private healthcare facilities, as well as healthcare providers and product manufacturers, we know what it takes to fight for your rights.

If you want further information regarding self-prescribing or treating family members, contact Goodman Allen Donnelly today and find out how our legal team can help you.