It is not unusual these days for family members to insist that the healthcare providers perform tests and prescribe treatments that may be inappropriate or medically futile but for which the family will feel more comfortable that “everything was done” to improve or preserve the life of their ill loved one. This type of family behavior, if their requests are followed, despite the action may be inappropriate for the patient’s condition or futile, is said to contribute to the unnecessary increased costs of medical care, particularly in end-stage illnesses. And following the requests ends up only benefiting the psychologic uncertainties and anxieties of the family but providing no benefit or occasionally even unnecessary risk or harm to the patient.
Yet, one could also say that physicians should not just be treating the patient but, in fact, are also treating the family and those around the patient who have great emotional and perhaps other interests with the patient. But is this global responsibility really what patient care is all about? Isn’t the responsibility of the bedside physician only for the patient? Well, no. One could argue that physicians do have responsibilities to society and to the community...
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