But why do the GMC and the media take such an interest in a relationship between two apparently consenting adults?
Professional boundaries facilitate trust, support good care, and protect both doctors and patients.
Doctors should not use their professional position to establish or pursue a sexual, exploitative, or other inappropriate relationship with patients.
But be careful that you don’t cross those professional boundaries into more dangerous territory.
Boundary violations can range from the obvious – engaging in sexual activity with a patient – to other transgressions, such as relationships with someone close to a patient, peer-to-peer relationships or those with other health care practitioners.
Patients may be vulnerable—for example, those who have mental health issues or who see doctors at difficult times in their lives, such as during illness or bereavement.
Also, during a medical consultation, patients confide sensitive and personal information to someone they may have only just met, and doctors can ask a complete stranger to undress so that they may examine them.A doctor who breaches the professional boundary may risk the patient’s trust in the doctor, cause psychological damage to the patient, compromise the patient’s medical care, and undermine the trust and confidence that other patients and the wider community have in the medical profession.Doctors should familiarise themselves with relevant guidelines of the Medical Board of Australia, as published from time to time.2.The guidance, issued yesterday, tells doctors they cannot initiate ‘sexual’ or ‘improper’ relationships with current patients.But it tells them they can date former patients, as long as they give ‘careful consideration’ to certain factors.‘Although it would not be possible to specify a length of time after which it is acceptable to pursue a relationship with a former patient, it is reasonable to expect that the more recently a professional relationship ended the less likely it is to be appropriate to begin a personal relationship with the patient.’ Doctors should only start a relationship with a former patient if they have used their 'professional judgement' to decide if it is appropriate and are still banned from 'improper' relationships with current patients (file picture) Some senior GPs, however, have previously warned that such relationships are always ‘flawed’.A psychologist who enters into a sexual relationship with a client or former client at that person’s request, and who does so when he knows or ought to know that he is thereby putting the other’s health (mental or otherwise) at risk, acts unprofessionally.