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Monday, December 21, 2020

Physicians' Ethics Change With Societal Trends

Batya S. Yasgur
Originally posted 23 Nov 20

Here is an excerpt:

Are Romantic Relationships With Patients Always Off Limits?

Medscape asked physicians whether it was acceptable to become romantically or sexually involved with a patient. Compared to 2010, in 2020, many more respondents were comfortable with having a relationship with a former patient after 6 months had elapsed. In 2020, 2% said they were comfortable having a romance with a current patient; 26% were comfortable being romantic with a person who had stopped being a patient 6 months earlier, but 62% said flat-out 'no' to the concept. In 2010, 83% said "no" to the idea of dating a patient; fewer than 1% agreed that dating a current patient was acceptable, and 12% said it was okay after 6 months.

Some respondents felt strongly that romantic or sexual involvement is always off limits, even months or years after the physician is no longer treating the patient. "Once a patient, always a patient," wrote a psychiatrist.

On the other hand, many respondents thought being a "patient" was not a lifelong status. An orthopedic surgeon wrote, "After 6 months, they are no longer your patient." Several respondents said involvement was okay if the physician stopped treating the patient and referred the patient to another provider. Others recommended a longer wait time.

"Although most doctors have traditionally kept their personal and professional lives separate, they are no longer as bothered by bending of boundaries and have found a zone of acceptability in the 6-month waiting period," Goodman said.

Packer added that the "greater relaxation of sexual standards and boundaries in general" might have had a bearing on survey responses because "doctors are part of those changing societal norms."

Evans suggested that the rise of individualism and autonomy partially accounts for the changing attitudes toward physician-patient (or former patient) relationships. "Being prohibited from having a relationship with a patient or former patient is increasingly being seen as an infringement on civil liberties and autonomy, which is a major theme these days."