To Hug or Not: Physicians Differ on What's the Right Behavior

Sandra Levy

Disclosures

February 19, 2018

In This Article

Introduction

Given the numerous accusations recently directed at high-profile people for alleged sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior, there is a new caution affecting personal interactions. People are concerned that formerly "acceptable" behavior could now land them in trouble.

Doctors care about their patients, and a hug is a common physical expression of caring. But is it appropriate to hug a patient? A recent Medscape article that asked this question received numerous responses.

Some physicians say that a hug is a natural way to show patients that you care, especially if a patient has cancer or is grieving. Receiving a hug also enables the patient to show gratitude, said several physicians.

On the other side, some physicians contend that hugging a patient changes the dynamics of the physician/patient relationship and that doing so is very risky because it could result in discomfort and lawsuits.

Other physicians said it's fine to hug a patient, but only if the patient initiates the gesture.

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