Where patient advocacy starts to become problematic and can lead into patient enabling, is when there is: a) a lack of objective biomarkers to indicate the presence of a pathological physical condition and/or b) the patient is pursuing some form of compensation (e.g., disability application, workers compensation claim, no-fault insurance claim, and/or litigation). By objective biomarkers, this means that there are no significant abnormalities on blood tests, x-rays, MRI scans, physical exam, or other objective measures. When a and b are both present, the risk of patient enabling increases significantly.
In sum, health care providers best help patients by using objective data to guide case conceptualization, treatment, and advocacy efforts. Sometimes, you need to be skeptical, sometimes you need to say no, sometimes you need to say something the patient may not want to hear, and sometimes you need to decide and communicate that there is nothing else you can do. This can all be done in a polite, caring, and respectful way. It does not mean that you have failed if all of your patients do not get better. Some will never get better and some do not want to. It’s just the reality of working in the modern day medical system.