Have You Ever Been Harassed, Attacked by a Patient?

December 20, 2017

The medical profession has its share of sexual misconduct, like those currently highlighted by the national "#MeToo" movement. One recent survey presented in JAMA found that among high-achieving US medical academics, 30% of women and 4% of men reported being sexually harassed.

Men and women in the medical profession may also have to contend with threatening behavior by patients. Although few investigations have examined the prevalence of patient harassment, a meta-analysis in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law in 2015 speculated that estimates could be as high as 20%.

Anecdotally, physicians report patient stalking, persistent attempts at communication, inappropriate social media contact, and even violent encounters. Several doctors have even paid the ultimate price for a patient relationship gone wrong, as was the case earlier this year when an Indiana psychiatrist was shot to death by the family member of a patient after he refused to write an opioid prescription.

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