The full content of Annals is available to subscribers

Subscribe/Learn More  >
Ideas and Opinions |

The Trouble with Families: Toward an Ethic of Accommodation

Carol Levine, MA; and Connie Zuckerman, JD
[+] Article, Author, and Disclosure Information

From Beth Israel Medical Center, New York, New York.

Ann Intern Med. 1999;130(2):148-152. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-130-2-199901190-00010
Text Size: A A A

Although some clinicians are extraordinarily sensitive to the legitimate roles of patients' families in medical crises, a persistent tendency to equate families with trouble is evident in both the literature and the practice of medicine. Some negative presumptions about families derive from western medicine's almost exclusive focus on the individual patient in codes of ethics, training, and practice. Modern bioethics has reinforced this individualistic approach. Physicians' primary responsibilities are unequivocally to their patients, but a complete understanding of the patient's personhood must include consideration of the significant persons who help define the patient's core identity. One source of tension between professionals and families lies in differing perceptions of the roles that family members should play and how they should play them. Members of a family may act as advocates, provide or manage care, serve as trusted companions on the journey through illness and death, and make decisions on behalf of an incompetent patient. Each role presents potential conflicts. Other sources of conflict include disagreement within a family; challenges to physician authority; fear of litigation; and differing religious, ethnic, or cultural traditions. An ethic of accommodation emphasizes the need to negotiate care plans that do not compromise patients' basic interests but that recognize the capacities and limitations of family members. Family caregivers want understandable and timely information, better training, compassionate recognition of their anxiety, guidance in defining their roles and responsibilities, and support for the setting of fair limits on their sacrifices. Health care professionals can better meet these needs through education and skills acquisition, the establishment of partnerships with families, and regular dialogue and communication.





Citing articles are presented as examples only. In non-demo SCM6 implementation, integration with CrossRef’s "Cited By" API will populate this tab (http://www.crossref.org/citedby.html).


Submit a Comment/Letter
Submit a Comment/Letter

Summary for Patients

Clinical Slide Sets

Terms of Use

The In the Clinic® slide sets are owned and copyrighted by the American College of Physicians (ACP). All text, graphics, trademarks, and other intellectual property incorporated into the slide sets remain the sole and exclusive property of the ACP. The slide sets may be used only by the person who downloads or purchases them and only for the purpose of presenting them during not-for-profit educational activities. Users may incorporate the entire slide set or selected individual slides into their own teaching presentations but may not alter the content of the slides in any way or remove the ACP copyright notice. Users may make print copies for use as hand-outs for the audience the user is personally addressing but may not otherwise reproduce or distribute the slides by any means or media, including but not limited to sending them as e-mail attachments, posting them on Internet or Intranet sites, publishing them in meeting proceedings, or making them available for sale or distribution in any unauthorized form, without the express written permission of the ACP. Unauthorized use of the In the Clinic slide sets will constitute copyright infringement.


Buy Now for $32.00

to gain full access to the content and tools.

Want to Subscribe?

Learn more about subscription options

Topic Collections
PubMed Articles
Benefits and barriers of accommodating intraocular lenses. Curr Opin Ophthalmol Published online Sep 20, 2016;
Forgot your password?
Enter your username and email address. We'll send you a reminder to the email address on record.