Eric Legras … THEDOCTORFACTORY … Health & Wellness Strategic Marketing

When Doctors Confide in Patients by Aléxia Herms

The New York Times- By Tara Parker-Pope


Dr. Anne Brewster, with son Jamie.

Should doctors disclose their own health problems to their patients? As Dr. Anne Brewster, a Boston internist, explains on the CommonHealth blog, doctors are typically taught to keep an emotional distance and are cautioned against sharing personal information with patients. Dr. Brewster explains:

Emotions can cloud judgment, and the preservation of professional boundaries is essential to quality care. But recently, Dr. Brewster decided to open up about her own health to ease the fears of her patient, a young woman who was just diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She began to cry. “I am so young. There was so much I wanted to do. I wanted to have a family.”

“I have the same disease,” I told her. I had decided to reach across the space between us and to share a bit of myself. I went on to say that I have four kids, that I still ski, run, play lacrosse and work as a doctor, that I am healthy and energetic. “There is tremendous variability in how people do,” I offered, “and some people do very well. It is the unknown that is scary.”

In revealing personal information, physician to patient, I had crossed a line. I did so intentionally, in an effort to bring compassion to our exchange, but still today, I cannot shake the slightly uneasy feeling that I have somehow breached medical etiquette.

To hear more from Dr. Brewster, go to CommonHealth on WBUR, a National Public Radio station in Boston, to read her full essay, “Boundary Issues: A Doctor With M.S. Confides in Her Patient,” and then please join the discussion below. Do you agree with Dr. Brewster’s decision to confide in her patient?



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