Medical Ethics

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What recommendations would you make to a healthcare provider who encounters a situation in which a male family member assumes the role of speaking for a female patient?

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I would first recommend a more indirect approach. The provider could offer their gratitude for the man's knowledge of the female patient's health concerns and then specifically direct more questions to the woman herself. That might look something like this:

"Steve, it's clear that you care a great deal for your wife and I love that you are so knowledgeable about her health issues. However, to obtain the most accurate information, we really need to hear from Emma herself. Emma, how would you rate your pain management right now?"

If this isn't effective, I would recommend a "policy" that only allows Emma in the particular room being used for questioning. Perhaps the room is too small. Perhaps there is an area that is reserved for female patients exclusively. Perhaps you have to ask her questions privately according to HIPAA guidelines. But there are certainly ways that Emma could be pulled aside and given the chance to speak for herself and without a man present.

I would also advise that the healthcare provider delicately ask questions to ensure that this is not an abusive relationship. If Emma is being silenced with her health care providers, this could be a manifestation of deeper and more troubling issues happening privately.

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