Doctor patient dating laws

Sexual relationships with patients are problematic, not only because they may be unethical and may compromise patient care, but because they may lead to civil actions for damages, criminal actions, and disciplinary proceedings by state medical boards. Consent is not a defense to a charge of statutory rape or sexual imposition on a minor. The American Medical Association Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs states categorically that "[s]exual contact that occurs concurrent with the physician-patient relationship constitutes sexual misconduct" (Opinion 8.14).

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physicians may also include considerable trust, intimacy, or emotional dependence.

The length of the former relationship, the extent to which the patient has confided personal or private information to the physician, the nature of the patient's medical problem, and the degree of emotional dependence that the patient has on the physician, all may contribute to the intimacy of the relationship.

But the AMA takes the position that ending the professional relationship may not be enough: a relationship still may violate professional ethics "if the sexual contact occurred as a result of the use or exploitation of trust, knowledge, influence, or emotions derived from the former professional relationship." When would this be the case?

The only other guidance that the AMA gives is of little help: Relationships between patients and...

The American Bar Association, for example, although taking a dim view of these relationships, does not absolutely rule out the possibility that a client has given effective consent: The lawyer may be called upon in a disciplinary or other proceeding to show that the client consented, that the consent was freely given based on full and reasonable disclosure of the risks involved, and that any ensuing sexual relationship did not in any way disadvantage the client in the representation; that is, the attorney's judgement remained independent, the representation proceeded free of conflicts, the privilege was not compromised and the other ethical obligations to the client were fulfilled.

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