October 19, 2018

THE RAGING RELATIVE DILEMMA: have you had a family member complain about treating their relative?

I have. It’s not unusual for friends and family to have strong negative opinions about injectable treatments, and to be incredibly angry when their loved one goes against their wishes and has a procedure done.

Sometimes their anger is directed at you, and they complain. They may even accuse you of being unethical. This really hurts, and you will want to defend your decisions, but we can’t as professionals divulge any information about our patients to relatives in this situation.

What can you do when a relative is complaining?

angry-relative-treating-familyConsider what you could say to an angry mother or father complaining that you should not have treated their 24-year-old daughter.

They believe she is perfect and didn’t need anything done. They believe the only reason you could have had to agree to the treatment is that you are money grabbing and you don’t care about her. Ouch!

You heard a very different side of the story from their sensible daughter who had an objectively small top lip that was knocking her confidence when smiling, but you can’t tell them any of this.

How do you respond?

Below is the kind of response you can give to reassure relatives and hopefully make them reconsider their point of view. Of course, you must be doing this in your consultations for it to be valid.

“Due to patient confidentiality I cannot discuss any particular case with you, but I can give you general information and reassurance about how medical aesthetics is delivered by healthcare professionals like myself.

As a medical professional we wouldn’t treat anyone unless the person and I agreed it was in their best interests. We obviously only treat adults and all treatments are done with reversible dermal fillers with the considered and informed consent of the person attending.

I assess their ability to make a decision independently and their mental state and their reasons for attending.

I explain the likely benefit to them from an aesthetic point of view- there is a science of beauty that looks at proportion and detail of the face and all my treatments are bounded by these aesthetic rules.

The psychology of younger people is sometimes different to older people, as it is a time when looking and feeling as attractive and as confident as possible opens up opportunities which can improve well-being in very many ways. Hence it is different to ‘fixing a problem’. It is more about maximising beauty potential, something we think is reasonable to do when you are young and a lot of your life is built on the opportunities you can take when you are young.

I understand you may see things very differently but I hope you understand that any clinician must primarily take their patient’s point of view as the main reason to treat, but be assured it is done in a careful and considered way.”

In this reply, you can be both reassuring and able to explain your decision without giving away any details of the patient.

If you think this is helpful to the public or a clinician please share with a friend or colleague.