Expert Response 2

Updated: June 25, 2020

In this scenario, I am a family member of an individual opting to pursue alternative treatments for their significant illness. My main concern here is the wellbeing and health of my relative. I must not jump to conclusions, and I will gather information first. I will have a private conversation with my relative. I will start by asking them an open-ended question: “How are you doing?” I can then ask them how they are coping with their illness. Then, I can ask what treatments they are pursuing. They may, in fact, be pursuing both traditional medical treatments with their physician and using alternative treatments as an adjunct with their doctor’s knowledge, in which case, I can offer my support and ensure I check in on them regularly. They may, on the other hand, be pursuing only alternative treatments and not using any traditional allopathic treatments. In that case, they may simply not have discussed this with their physician; I can suggest that, since I care about them, I feel they should make a visit to their physician and let them know what treatments they are using. Alternative treatments could interact with traditional treatments, or may even be making their condition worse, so I would encourage them to disclose this information to their physician. 

They may also not be trusting of allopathic medicine or physicians and be resistant to seeking out traditional, evidence-based treatments. I would want to listen to why they feel this way, and still offer my opinion that seeking out a physician’s opinion may be helpful to them, and I wish to ensure their future health and wellbeing. Perhaps they had a negative experience with a physician, and I can suggest seeking out another physician or going with them to the appointment if they are OK with that. However, there is a chance that they simply do not wish to pursue treatment with a physician. In that case, if they are competent to make their own decisions, I need to respect their autonomy to make their own medical decisions. I can keep checking in on them, however. On the other hand, if I feel they are not competent to make medical decisions anymore due to cognitive impairment, I need to bring this up with the closest family member who could be their decision-maker; this is necessary to ensure their safety. To summarize, I would focus on my relative’s wellbeing and safety, gather information, and respect their autonomy, while also relaying my concerns about their health to them. Thank you and I am happy to answer any follow-up questions at this time.

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