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.
It has not introduced a blanket ban, which might have been vulnerable to a human rights challenge, but it is far from permissive. Consider the general practitioner in a remote rural practice. The edict could cast the shadow of inappropriate behaviour across any future partner he or she may meet. Surely the
Physician dating former patient oath did not include a vow of chastity? Previously the GMC prohibited only relationships with current patients.
So what of those relationships already under way? Are these now subject to suspicion? Should doctors in such relationships, as the guidance infers, discuss their relationships with a member of the GMC standards and ethics team? Clearly the focus is on vulnerable patients. In these cases, predatory doctors sexually exploited vulnerable patients entrusted to their care. Has the GMC got the
Physician dating former patient right? Traditionally the
Physician dating former patient relationship has been seen as characterised by an imbalance of power, with the doctor in the position of authority.
In this way, the power of the doctor is harnessed to the good, engendering trust Physician dating former patient maximising therapeutic outcomes. Professionalism demands that both parties are protected by clear mutually recognised boundaries.
The ethics 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. But isn't such a take on the doctor-patient relationship out of date, even paternalistic? Online resources have reduced the information gap between doctors and patients, patient autonomy is greater than ever before, and not everyone who walks through a consulting room door is a shrinking violet.
Some doctors feel that the shoe is now firmly on the
Physician dating former patient foot. The classic paradigm, with the single handed usually male practitioner exploiting vulnerable female patients is less likely today because doctors work in multidisciplinary teams, where such behaviour would be exposed. It is also easy to think of examples that
Physician dating former patient on the absurd; should junior doctors treating fellow medics in accident and be forever precluded from dating them?
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 a meeting of equals?
As with so Physician former patient questions that arise in ethics, the honest Physician dating former patient must be, it depends. Recent history is sadly strewn with sobering examples of doctors abusing their power—Rodney Ledward, Harold Shipman, Peter Green. If so many doctors had not abused their power in the past, calls for restraint would not be as loud.
Irrespective of the pressure that the softening traditional hierarchies of authority is bringing to bear, the doctor-patient relationship remains a kind of exemplar. Patients are often vulnerable when they visit doctors. They can be sick, distressed, and disorientated, even if they express their need in an aggressive or overconfident way. Patients may need to reveal the most private information.
Without the expectation that boundaries will be observed and trust respected, they may be less forthcoming, and patient care will suffer. Information trawled from the internet will never be a substitute for informed professional judgment.
It is for the interpretation of such information as much as for its provision that Physician dating former patient rely on professionals. So it a special kind of relationship, rooted in trust as much Physician dating former patient contract, governed by professional boundaries that protect doctors as well as patients, and subject in complex ways to the ebb and flow of power.
The GMC has a difficult job to do. In falling short of a blanket ban, in recognising that there will always be exceptions, it has made a wise choice. National Center for Biotechnology InformationU. Journal List BMJ v. Julian Sheathersenior ethics advisor. Author information Copyright and License information Disclaimer. This article has been cited by Physician dating former patient articles Physician dating former patient PMC.
Department of Health Committee of Inquiry. Doctors are warned against Physician dating former patient former patients. Support Center Support Center.
MORE: Kik dating informer