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Self-prescribing is a matter of judgment



Doctors may not be inclined to seek help for a number of reasons.

GPs face clampdown on self-prescribing

Patients want healthy doctors and doctors feel there is enormous pressure on them not to give in to ill health.

GPs self-prescribe as a convenience and through a feeling of duty to colleagues and patients.

Similar issues occur with so-called curbside prescribing, where GPs make a prescription to a patient in an informal setting.

To resolve the dilemmas that may arise, one option could be just not allowing this kind of prescribing at all, no matter the circumstances and type of medication.

However, prescribing in these situations could be important in an emergency. And if emergency situations are exempted, then doctors would once again be called to judge if there is an emergency or not.

Ultimately, everything may be reduced to best judgment in the given circumstances. Not allowing this type of judgment is a limitation of freedom that could be bad for patients and society.

With the Hippocratic Oath, doctors swear they will prescribe for the good of patients according to their ability and judgment.

If judgment is not obscured, or there is no reason to think that judgment will be obscured, then it should be considered appropriate to self-prescribe and prescribe to family members.

Self-prescribing for common minor ailments, and not of controlled drugs, may make sense, particularly if a limited amount of medication is supplied.

A ban would be at the least not evidence-based and could go against common law. It can be argued that curbsiding is more ethically problematic than self-prescribing because it implicates a third party.

From Dr Edoardo Cervoni

Preston