Patients need to trust that their doctor will act in their best interests, treat them professionally, not breach their privacy and never take advantage of them.
Exploitation of the doctor-patient relationship undermines the trust that patients have in their doctors and the community has in the profession.
Warning signs include but are not limited to: If a doctor senses any of these warning signs, or if a patient talks about or displays inappropriate feelings towards a doctor or exhibits sexual behaviour, the doctor should consider whether this is interfering with the patient’s care and/or placing the doctor or the patient at risk.
In these situations, the doctor should try to constructively re-establish professional boundaries and seek advice from an experienced and trusted colleague or their professional indemnity insurer about how to best manage the situation.
A sexual relationship between a doctor and the individual close to a patient may affect the judgement of both the doctor and the individual and as a result, may undermine the patient’s healthcare.
It may be unethical and unprofessional for a doctor to engage in a sexual relationship with a former patient, if this breaches the trust the patient placed in the doctor.
Doctors should recognise the influence they have had on patients and that a power imbalance could continue long after the professional relationship has ended.
It can cause significant and lasting harm to patients.
These guidelines aim to provide guidance to doctors about establishing and maintaining sexual boundaries in the doctor-patient relationship.Such a relationship may be unethical if the doctor has used any power imbalance, knowledge or influence obtained as the patient’s doctor.