Is Doctor/Patient Romance Becoming More Acceptable?

Neil Chesanow


January 14, 2015

In This Article

Is Physician/Patient Sex Still Taboo?

Medscape's 2014 Ethics Survey, in which more than 21,000 physicians took part, found that having intimate relations with a patient, although still taboo to most respondents, is no longer as unthinkable as it once was to a significant number of doctors.[1]

"Professionalism should not mean that every aspect of one's personal life is policed by the profession," a doctor wrote, one of hundreds who proffered comments pro and con. "My main objection to relationships between doctors and current patients is that medical practice should not be coopted for speed-dating during office visits, as that harms the integrity of the profession. But if doctor and patient have occasion to meet outside the confines of the clinic and there's no ongoing therapeutic relationship, it's none of my business what they do."

To be sure, the majority of commenters were dead-set against a doctor dating a current patient, and many objected to a physician having intimate relations with a former patient as well, regardless of how much time may have elapsed.

"It's unethical and immoral to get involved with a patient," one doctor flatly stated.

"Never, never, never, never!" wrote another, an oft-echoed sentiment.

"Once a patient/doctor relationship is established, it will always be a patient/doctor relationship," a third physician insisted.

"Even if the romance starts a long time after the doctor/patient relationship ends, the asymmetry in the doctor/patient status will bear poisoned fruit," a physician warned.

"There should be no gray areas here," another doctor declared. "No is no."


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