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To the doctor -- if the would-be paramour is a patient -- it's also unethical.
But physician responses to Medscape's 2012 ethics survey clearly indicate that many physicians aren't willing to condemn every romance.
Even if a former doctor cannot have his or her medical license revoked for having a relationship with a former patient, civil lawsuits for exploitation and emotional distress can still be raised.
Some states will enforce promises to not sue for malpractice.
When asked, "Is it ever acceptable to become involved a romantic or sexual relationship with a patient?
" more than two thirds (68%) of the 24,000 doctors who responded resoundingly say "no." In contrast, nearly one third are more nuanced in their view.
"For example, I would be less concerned about an ophthalmologist getting involved with a patient who has had general yearly visits than I would an internist or oncologist." Likewise, "the fact that you met them as a patient once in an ER, or you cared for them years ago and they are no longer your patient should not be absolute barriers to a relationship if it develops," wrote an obstetrician/gynecologist. Some specialties by their very nature create a more intimate relationship, and one that makes the patient more vulnerable.The physician-patient relationship is regarded as a fiduciary relationship, in which mutual trust and confidence are essential.A physician is held to a standard of medical care defined by the accepted standards of practice in his or her area of practice.Recognizing that, the American Psychiatric Association categorically prohibits sexual relationships with either current or former patients. "You definitely have to dissect the relationship," he says.The difference between treating a "boo-boo" -- as opposed to a patient's depression or cancer -- can't be overstated, says Kenneth Goodman, Ph D, codirector or the University of Miami Ethics Programs. Whether or not a relationship could be ethically defensible depends on the nature, intensity, and frequency of the doctor/patient interaction, he says.
Some courts will not impose a duty on a physician without a contract for the benefit of the patient or some affirmative act on the part of a physician.