Observations Yankee Doodling

Doctors treating their families

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g4281 (Published 26 June 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g4281
  1. Douglas Kamerow, senior scholar, Robert Graham Center for policy studies in primary care, and associate editor, BMJ
  1. dkamerow{at}aafp.org

Common, often harmless, sometimes dangerous and wrong

It began for me when I was a boy in the 1950s. My sisters and I would troop over to the house next door where our uncle, a general internist, jabbed us with the Salk polio vaccine. He wasn’t our regular doctor—we had a pediatrician whom we saw regularly for checkups and ear infections—but we sometimes got our injections from him. In retrospect, I’m not sure why we went there for the shots: Convenience? Vaccine scarcity in the early days of polio immunizations? Low (no) cost?

It continued throughout my childhood. Even though he did not regularly see children, our doctor next door was often where we went for acute illnesses. I remember him treating an ingrown toenail, diagnosing chickenpox, and injecting antibiotics for what was likely cellulitis.

It continues today. I am often consulted by family for medical advice and even care, despite the fact that I am a non-practicing family doctor who only teaches part time. How should I respond?

Medical authorities provide some guidance. The American Medical Association says that …

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