When Patients Try to Seduce Doctors

Leigh Page


October 26, 2016

In This Article

Watch Out for the Amorous Patient

Physicians are sometimes portrayed as sexual predators of patients. That issue is in the public eye right now, after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution release in July of its study uncovering thousands of cases of physician sexual abuse of patients.[1]

There's also a flip side to this issue: There are many cases in which the tables are turned, and patients try to seduce physicians.

Doctors have to be vigilant about amorous patients, according to experts who treat doctors for sexual offenses. Patients' advances can often be quite intense. In some cases, they may willfully entrap doctors or even level false accusations against them. State medical boards view these cases very seriously, and any hint at complicity can ruin a doctor's career.

"Patients may try to initiate a physical relationship with the doctor, on the basis of unrealistic fantasies they might have about him or her," says to Michael C. Heitt, PsyD, a clinical psychologist in Pikesville, Maryland, who treats many doctors referred by the Maryland Board of Physicians.

Dr Heitt says patients' expectations may be amped up by TV hospital shows, in which sex with doctors appears to be rampant. And there's a whole genre of romance novels about female patients falling for male doctors,[2] whereas just Googling "doctor-patient porn" opens a plethora of sites.

The vast majority of doctors never respond to patients' come-ons, but almost every physician has been exposed to this, says Stephen J. Schenthal, MD, CEO and founder of Jacksonville, Florida-based Professional Boundaries Inc. (PBI), which offers classes to doctors referred by medical boards for sexual liaisons with patients and other "boundary" issues.

At physician conferences, when Dr Schenthal asks a roomful of doctors whether they have ever encountered a seductive or flirtatious patient, "everybody raises their hand," he says.

How often do these attempted seductions get to be a real problem? No one in the United States seems to know, but in Great Britain, the Medical Defence Union (MDU), representing physicians in malpractice actions, has issued a count for its own physicians. In 2012, the MDU said physicians' reports of being pursued by "a lovestruck patient" rose from 73 in 2002-2006 to 100 in 2007-2011, according to a report[3] in the Guardian.

"Members report being bombarded with messages to their mobiles or email, and Twitter or Facebook accounts," an MDU official told the newspaper.


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