When physicians forego the doctor-patient relationship, should they elect to self-prescribe or curbside? An empirical and ethical analysis

Journal of Medical Ethics 36 (1):19-23 (2010)
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Background: The American Medical Association, the British Medical Association and the Canadian Medical Association have guidelines that specifically discourage physicians from self-prescribing or prescribing to family members, but only the BMA addresses informal prescription requests between colleagues. Objective: To examine the practices of paediatric providers regarding self-prescribing, curbsiding colleagues, and prescribing and refusing to prescribe to friends and family. Methods: 1086 paediatricians listed from the American Academy of Paediatrics 2007 web-based directory were surveyed. Results: 44% of eligible survey respondents returned usable surveys. Almost half of respondents had prescribed for themselves. An equal number had informally requested a prescription from a colleague. Three-quarters stated they had been asked to prescribe a prescription drug for a first-degree or second-degree relative, and 51% had been asked by their spouse. Eighty-six per cent stated that they had refused to write a prescription on at least one occasion for a friend or family member. The following reasons “strongly influenced” their decision to refuse a prescription request: outside of provider’s expertise ; patient’s need for his or her own physician ; not medically indicated ; need for a physical examination. Conclusion: These data confirm that most physicians have engaged in self-prescribing or curbside requests for prescriptions. It can be argued that curbsiding is more morally problematic than self-prescribing because it implicates a third party, and should be discouraged regardless of whether the requester is a colleague, family member or friend



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Lainie Ross
University of Chicago

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