Title

The Patient in the Family and the Family in the Patient

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

10-1987

Journal

Theoretical Medicine

Volume

8

Issue

3

First Page

321

Last Page

332

URL with Digital Object Identifier

http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF00489467

Abstract

The notion that the family is the unit of care for family doctors has been enigmatic and controversial. Yet systems theory and the biopsychosocial model that results when it is imported into medicine make the family system an indispensable and important component of family medicine. The challenge, therefore, is to provide a coherent, plausible account of the role of the family in family practice. Through an extended case presentation and commentary, we elaborate two views of the family in family medicine — treating the patient in the family and treating the family in the patient — and defend both as appropriate foci for care by family doctors. The practical problem that arises when the family is introduced into health care is deciding when to concentrate on the family system. The moral problems that arise concern how extensively doctors may become involved in the personal lives of their patients and families. The patient-centered clinical method provides a strategy for handling both problems. Thus, making the family a focus of care in family medicine can be justified on theoretical, practical, and moral grounds.