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Keywords:

  • Surrogate decision-makers;
  • physicians as double agents;
  • aging;
  • ethics

The challenges inherent in physicians treating members of their own families are well known. However, the issues related to physicians acting as surrogate decision-makers on behalf of relatives have not been addressed. The growing number of older persons will increase the need not only for healthcare resources, but also for physicians to act on behalf of incapacitated family members as surrogate decision-makers. In this paper, some of the clinical and ethical tensions evoked by physicians serving as surrogate decision-makers for family members are explored. Some recommendations for managing these tensions are suggested.