When should a physician step in to stop a cultural practice?

When should a physician step in to stop a cultural practice?

You are a general practitioner and a mother comes into your office with her child who is complaining of flu-like symptoms. Upon entering the room, you ask the boy to remove his shirt and you notice a pattern of very distinct bruises on the boy’s torso. You ask the mother where the bruises came from, and she tells you that they are from a procedure she performed on him known as “cao gio,” which is also known as “coining.”

The procedure involves rubbing warm oils or gels on a person’s skin with a coin or other flat metal object. The mother explains that cao gio is used to raise out bad blood, and improve circulation and healing. When you touch the boy’s back with your stethoscope, he winces in pain from the bruises. You debate whether or not you should call Child Protective Services and report the mother.

Should you completely discount this treatment as useless, or could there be something gained from it?

When should a physician step in to stop a cultural practice? (remember that there is some pain in many of our medical procedures, for example, having one’s tonsils removed).

Should the physician be concerned about alienating the mother and other people of her ethnicity from modern medicine? Do you think that the physician should report the mother?