is sexual contact between the patient and the physician?
Sexual contact is not only sexual intercourse but includes
any kind of inappropriate sexual touching or fondling.
For a physician, sexual misconduct includes erotic behavior
such as such as kissing, nudity, and sexual proposition
or comment. Any erotic sexual contact between a physician
and a patient constitutes sexual misconduct. Complete
physical examination often includes, by necessity, touching
of genitals or palpation of breasts but avoids sexual
or erotic manipulation.
I have a sexual relationship with my doctor, and I have
given consent, why is this not all right?
sexual relationship between a patient and the physician
is never permissible. For the patient it may mean emotional
damage. For the physician it may mean the loss of objective
judgment in treatment, and possibly the loss of a license
to practice medicine. A healthy patient-physician relationship
is essential for sound medical treatment, and most physicians
understand and abide by the special trust inherent in
a healthy relationship.
television, in the movies and in many novels, patient-physician
relationships are portrayed as a normal occurrence.
What is the problem with this kind of relationship?
A healthy relationship between a patient and a physician
is proper and should be developed by the physician for
the patient's well being. This strong relationship is
important to the total health care process. However,
the media may send a confusing message by romanticizing
and blurring the appropriate boundaries physicians are
expected to maintain with their patients. The American
Medical Association and the Maryland Board of Physicians,
as well as most other state licensing boards, regard
sexual contact between a physician and a patient as
unethical conduct. It may be normal for a patient to
feel attracted to a physician who is attentive, kind,
and caring, but doctors have a responsibility to provide
competent care without sexual exploitation.
does the medical community view sexual exploitation?
The medical community views sexual exploitation as a
doctor using a patient for sexual gratification. Sexual
contact between a patient and a physician represent
inappropriate behavior and as such violate standards
of the medical profession. The physicians must keep
sex out of the patient-physician relationship, even
when the patient initiates sexual overtures.
really like my doctor and we have a very good relationship.
We joke and kid about a variety of things. Could this
present a problem?
Yes it could. However, if a patient acts in a seductive
manner or makes overtures to the physician, the physician
must respond in a professional manner. The physician
must avoid comments or behavior which could be interpreted
as flirting or an invitation to a sexual relationship.
Physicians should also avoid sharing personal sexual
problems with patients but may inquire into a patient's
private life if this information is needed for medical
reasons. All examinations should be done in a way which
is sensitive to the patient's modesty or that will prevent
possible embarrassment. A physician should carefully
explain the purpose of the examination and exactly what
is about to or will happen during the examination. This
may help prevent any misinterpretation of the physical
examination and reduce the patient's anxiety about the
necessity or appropriateness of any touching that may
purpose does a chaperon serve?
Primarily, the chaperon eases the concerns of the patient
during more intimate examinations, and secondarily,
the chaperon protects the physician from unfounded sexual
I ask my doctor to provide a chaperon during more intimate
The patient may request that a nurse, friend, or family
member act as a chaperon. Whenever uncomfortable with
any part of an examination, the patient may ask the
physician to stop. Although it is not required, the
cautious physician will ask if the patient would like
to have a chaperon present during more intimate examinations.
Most women desire a chaperon for a pelvic examination
when the physician is a male, but have no preference
or may decline a chaperon if the physician were female.
Male patients almost never want a third person in the
room regardless of the sex of the physician. If you
would be more comfortable having a chaperon in the room
during your physical examination, by all means request
there any warning signs of which I should be aware?
Warning signs include making seductive overtures, discussing
personal sexual life, asking to meet socially outside
the office or during non-office hours, physical caressing
or touching in a sexual manner, providing alcohol or
drugs during treatment sessions. Warning signs almost
always precede unethical behavior.
I change physicians, is it ever possible to see a former
physician socially or romantically?
At a minimum, the patient-physician relationship should
be severed prior to any social or romantic relationship.
For psychiatrists, a romantic relationship with a current
or former patient is prohibited under the ethical standards
for psychiatry and may result in disciplinary action
by the Maryland Board of Physicians.