Healthcare Blog of Dr. Remo Aguilar

A doctor in the family

in Medicine/Personal/Physician by

I too believe that having a physician member of the  in the family offers some distinct advantages. The best example of course is the relatively access to healthcare professionals. Medical information, drug prescriptions, when needed are easily obtainable. With a physician relative, navigating through the maze of complex healthcare system seem a bit more bearable for the average patient.

Such advantages though isn’t without compounding problems.  Complex family dynamics often interfere (sometimes negatively) with physician’s ability to be objective medically. Thus, it has been a norm among physicians to hand over treatment of sick family members to their colleagues. In this situation, that physician family member is often relegated to a healthcare facilitator. [pullquote] A healthcare facilitator, by virtue of his knowledge about the ins and outs of the prevailing healthcare system efficiently facilitate the carrying out of different medical procedures for his or her sick family member.[/pullquote]He or she also acts as the official medical information person for the family and translates these medical information into something understandable by the family members. In the bureaucratic parlance, a “fixer”. Not the best of titles for someone with lots of suffixes in their name, but yes that’s what we do, when a member of our family gets sick.

A physician may chooses to manage his or her sick family member, despite this potential bias.  It will never be easy though and may sometimes take a toll on the personal life of that physician.

I squirm at the sight of my mom being stung by needles. If she winces in pain, I wince in pain too. I feel terrible whenever she complains swallowing several pills even if it is exactly what she needed. When she asks me “are you going to cut me again?”, my heart melts. In these moments, I hate to be the doctor in the family. Nobody likes to inflict pain on your patients in the promise of them getting well. Try telling that to my mom.

Is it easier then for physicians to manage a sick member of the family? Again, the simple answer is NO, IT ISN’T.

I don’t find talking about medical illness to our family less painful either. Simplifying a medical information is a bit challenging too. Despite aiming for a shared decision making, you ultimately end up  making the decision yourself, being the “more medically informed” in the family. Ergo, a bigger responsibility. Sadly, you cannot make a “no decision”.

There is an inescapable reality that families with doctor are exempted from the problems besetting an average Filipino family. The costly health care system, the complex Filipino family dynamics and other multitude of problems, does not discriminate whether you have a doctor in the family or not.  The power of the stethoscope doesn’t discriminate patients, family or not.

The hardest part I think is taking responsibilities should medical knowledge fail to address a medical condition of a family member. I have yet to meet a physician who boasts that he or she “healed” a family member from sickness, but I can practically name a few who took on their lives for “failing” to even ease out the pain his or her relative feel from sickbed.

Would you call it then an advantage, having a physician in the family?  I, a physician and a son, ultimately don’t think so.

(Let me hear what you think)

 

Dr. Remo-tito Aguilar co-founded #HealthXPh. A board certified orthopedic surgeon, he is previously Chief of Clinics at St. Louis Hospital in Tacurong City and a consultant in Orthopedics at the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City. Dr. Aguilar is a healthcare social media evangelist and writes his medical musings at The Cast & Curious (www.remomd.com).

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