Recently the celebrity world and indeed the whole wold mourned the untimely death of a music legend, Whitney Houston. The full circumstances surrounding her death is still subject to many speculations. However, the role played by doctors in her death has been raised. According to the report in Los Angeles Times, the Assistant Chief Coroner at the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office stated that they have contacted a number of doctors requesting their records.

It’s not long ago that we had an ugly episode with a doctor’s involvement in circumstances surrounding the death of another legend, Michael Jackson. Most doctors may not be fortunate to be a personal physician to a celebrity but there are lessons to be learnt from these unfortunate situations. Not many practitioners get to choose the type of clients they treat. The onus then lies on the practitioner to uphold the ethics of the profession. There are situations where the patient make demands of their doctors – which is their right – the decision is that of the doctor whether they succumb to pressure or not. The issue of prescription medications especially controlled drugs is a difficult one. How do you definitively determine the genuineness and sincerity of the client? Some things in clinical practice are obvious and some are not so obvious.  Seasoned physicians would say that the longer you are in practice the more you listen to your sixth sense. It is equally possible to be more laid back and lackadaisical the longer you are in practice.

It is therefore imperative that proper medical record are kept and strict adherence to prescription guidelines be maintained at all times. Many doctors in the family practice setting know their clients very well such that many of them are more like family than patients. Such familiarity could sometimes result in dangerous practices if care is not taken. Regardless of who is involved, every patient should be dealt with using sound clinical principles. Being subpoenaed by a Coroner’s court on faulty record keeping is not what physicians spent many years training for. These ugly situations are avoidable if there are clear-cut guidelines and principles dealing with patient care. I honestly hope that these doctors kept adequate records that would clear them of any wrongdoing in this particular case. For the rest, it is an opportunity to keep up the standards and excellence that medical practice is known for.

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