The GMC has a difficult job to do. Information trawled from the internet will never be a substitute for informed professional judgment. But isn't such a take on the doctor-patient relationship out of date, even paternalistic? The ethics department of the British Medical Association has advised doctors on how to manage intrusive patients—how to deal with stalkers and those who shower doctors with declarations of undying love. It is for the interpretation of such information as much as for its provision that we rely on professionals. Sometimes the initiator is the physician, and sometimes it is the patient. A physician must terminate the patient-physician relationship before initiating a dating, romantic, or sexual relationship with a patient. A mere six months after the divorce, in February of , Simon married Ellen, and they remain together today. Back to top Code of Medical Ethics Opinion 9. The rule of thumb, however, is generally agreed upon in the medical profession. Well, that may be true, but these situations can still be tricky. Some doctors feel that the shoe is now firmly on the other foot. Are these now subject to suspicion? Quit the dating agency, Simon told her, and go out with me instead. Without the expectation that boundaries will be observed and trust respected, they may be less forthcoming, and patient care will suffer. It has not introduced a blanket ban, which might have been vulnerable to a human rights challenge, but it is far from permissive. But doctors are people, too.
Just two days earlier, she had been crying into her cappuccino with her girlfriends, worried that she would never again find a loving relationship. So it is a special kind of relationship, rooted in trust as much as contract, governed by professional boundaries that protect doctors as well as patients, and subject in complex ways to the ebb and flow of power. And he got to know his second wife, identified in court hearings as Patient B, while counselling her over relationship troubles with her former husband. But in , after 13 years of marriage, they decided it was time to end the relationship, which they felt had deteriorated beyond repair. In falling short of a blanket ban, in recognising that there will always be exceptions, it has made a wise choice. Back to top Code of Medical Ethics Opinion 9. As the patient as consumer comes of age, and the power and status of professionals wanes, is Graeme Catto right or is the doctor-patient relationship now a meeting of equals? Romantic relationships between doctors and patients are fraught with hazards and best avoided. The problem with rules by regulatory bodies, is that they tend to be broad easy-to-communicate norms that leave little room for nuance. This includes not only sexual contact, but also behaviour or remarks of a sexual nature. Physicians sometimes have sexual relationships with patients, or with former patients. Doctors are warned against sex with former patients. Some doctors feel that the shoe is now firmly on the other foot. After these details eventually came to light, a medical disciplinary panel suspended Holmes from practising for three months for failing to maintain professional boundaries. Sexual or romantic relationships with former patients are unethical if the physician uses or exploits trust, knowledge, emotions, or influence derived from the previous professional relationship, or if a romantic relationship would otherwise foreseeably harm the individual. There are typically two types of doctors who commit sexual abuse of patients, says Leet. She was taken aback — gobsmacked, really. It is also easy to think of examples that verge on the absurd; should junior doctors treating fellow medics in accident and emergency be forever precluded from dating them? Clearly the focus is on vulnerable patients. What if, for instance, you are the only doctor in a remote community? Quit the dating agency, Simon told her, and go out with me instead. In the real world, each relationship is unique and complex and such rules, however well intentioned, may not apply to all cases. Their relationship blossomed, and the couple wed two years later. New guidance gets the balance right in stopping short of a complete ban In new guidance, the General Medical Council GMC has warned doctors to think long and hard before embarking on a sexual relationship with a former patient. Often times these are clear-cut cases of unethical behaviour on the part of doctors — perhaps even criminal behaviour.
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