Sentry Page Protection
Ethical Scenario 16
A member of your family decides to depend solely on alternative medicine for the treatment of his or her significant illness. What action would you take, if any?
Your main concern must be your relative’s health. First of all, begin a dialogue to better understand their position and their motivations. We don’t know to what extent they have discussed traditional medical therapies with their doctor, and why they currently aren’t pursuing them.
One should suggest that they speak to their doctor about the alternative treatments they are using, as these could interact with traditional medicine if they are to take it.
When trying to understand why they are not using traditional medicine, gently probe the reasons - it may be a distrust of evidence-based medicine. If this is the case, you should respectfully offer your opinion, adding that you are only doing so as you really believe it to be in their best interest. Perhaps seeing a different doctor would be helpful to them - they may have a poor relationship with their current doctor. Clearly, a doctor who has an open mind and is willing to listen to their beliefs is needed.
The core pillar here is autonomy - a patient has the right to refuse treatment. As such, if someone has turned down medical treatment, and they are competent to do so, it is their decision.
To summarise, in a situation like this one should ensure the patient has as much information as possible to make an informed decision - as you care about their wellbeing - have a respectful conversation exploring their motivations, and ultimately respect their autonomy.