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Can Surgeons Operate on Family?

Surgeons are renowned for saving lives during operations and surgically treating diseases and injuries. They also respond to emergencies and, based on their specialization, improve the patients’ lives.

Since surgeons spend hours performing surgeries on their patients, you might be asking, can surgeons operate on their family members?

After all, if this is the case, their loved ones pay less in surgical bills. You might even assume that having a surgeon as a family member means you can have surgery whenever you need one.

But the answer is no—surgeons cannot operate on family members. Surgical organizations like the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons strictly discourage surgeons from surgically treating their families, friends, and anyone with whom they have close ties.

The surgical code of conduct also dissuades practitioners from giving potentially addictive prescription drugs, psychotherapy treatments, and medical certificates to their family members. 

Instead, another physician, surgeon, or specialist must handle the case of their loved ones. Their code of conduct also prohibits surgeons from performing self-treatment.

In this article, you will learn the ethical and practical reasons behind this rule.

Emotional attachment

During their medical training, surgeons train to provide safe, high-standard, and objective care. This practice is the foundation of a healthy relationship between patients and medical practitioners.

Because of this, they cannot be distracted by their emotions. Attachments and bonds can compromise the surgeons’ treatment or influence their assessment of the health issue.

Emotions can impact surgeons as they treat their spouses, parents, or children.

Issues on confidentiality and consent

Surgeons and patients must have healthy communication between them. This openness is vital for proper treatment and successful healing.

But this raises a problem. Patients might find it awkward and unsettling that someone they know so much will perform surgery on them.

Intimate treatments and sensitive dialogues can cause the same discomfort, especially between parent surgeons and their children. Autonomy and consent are two crucial aspects of medical care, yet they are compromised if the patient and the surgeon have a relationship.

The same difficulty can arise if the surgery had complications, side effects, and negative results.

When is it ethical to operate on family members?

There are situations and cases where surgeons can treat their loved ones surgically. Surgeons must operate on themselves or their loved ones during emergencies and life-threatening settings where no other qualified surgeons are present.

However, another physician or surgeon must take charge of postoperative care once it is possible.

Surgeons may also operate on their family members’ minor injuries and problems at their own risk. If severe side effects appear, they will be held liable and sanctioned by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.

How can surgeons help their loved ones outside surgeries?

Given how treating family members is a sensitive medical issue, surgeons rarely provide full-scale or consequential operations to their loved ones. But they can still help their loved ones by giving medical advice and consultations.

As specialized physicians, surgeons can also prescribe routine, non-dependent medications for acute ailments. They can also conduct therapies for their children.

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