Ethics of physician dating former patient

This paper presents evidence from international medical and ethical literature to examine the validity of this position taken by the New Zealand Medical Council regarding the sexualization of relationships with former patients.

First, the concepts of boundaries and transference are discussed and a profile of the medical practitioner at risk of offending is drawn.

Nor do all boundary transgressions between doctor and patient ultimately lead to sexual misconduct. A key factor in the identification of doctors at risk of violating boundaries is the enhanced vulnerability of a doctor to the transference–counter-transference dyad which occurs in varying degrees in every doctor–patient relationship.

Transference is “the unconscious assignment to others of feelings and attitudes that were originally associated with important figures” by the patient onto the doctor.

There are ethical issues about doctors dating or engaging in sexual contact with current patients. The rules are even less clear when you are talking about former patients.

The issue becomes using one's position as the medical doctor essentially to cultivate such relationships with current or recent former patients.

Now, that being said, the AMA has addressed this issue in opinions. In one example, if you are a pediatrician working with a 3 year old child, dating that child's mother is going to probably cross the line if the relationship was developed based on the treatment.the deleterious effects of such relationships upon patients have become increasingly recognized and condemned by the medical community. One such area is whether sexual relationships with patients are ever ethically permissible and, if so, under what circumstances.Two years after the zero tolerance policy was adopted, the New Zealand Medical Council released a further policy statement in which it stated that whilst complaints regarding sexual relations with former patients will be considered individually, it will be presumed to be unethical if the “doctor–patient relationship involved psychotherapy, or long-term counselling and support; the patient suffered a disorder likely to impair judgement or hinder decision-making; the doctor knew that the patient had been sexually abused in the past; [or] the patient was under the age of 20 when the doctor–patient relationship ended”.These include boundaries of role, time, place and space, money, gifts and services, clothing, language and physical contact.Sexual misconduct usually commences with violations of more minor boundaries:“The road to therapist–patient sex is paved with progressive boundary violations.

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