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Inappropriate relationship with patient (09HDC01342)
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(09HDC01342, 24 February
General practitioner ~ Medical centre ~ Current patient ~
Former patient ~ Professional boundaries ~ No further
A woman complained that a general practitioner engaged in a
brief intimate relationship with her (with sexual intercourse
occurring once). The woman had consulted him twice for herself and
six times for her daughter, the previous year. She was a patient of
the medical centre where the general practitioner worked, but he
was not her regular doctor.
In order to determine the appropriateness of the general
practitioner's conduct, and whether it breached ethical and
professional standards, it was necessary to analyse the woman's
varying status as a current patient, a family member of a patient
(her daughter), and a former patient.
Following disclosure of her initial attraction to the doctor,
the woman stayed as a patient at the medical centre, but the
general practitioner did not see her again as a doctor other than
for her daughter's visit, when he was the emergency doctor.
There was no evidence that the general practitioner used any
power imbalance, knowledge or influence obtained when treating the
woman's daughter in his subsequent relationship with her mother.
The limited doctor-patient relationship ended by mutual agreement
after the woman expressed her feelings for the general
practitioner. It did not appear to have been ended by the general
practitioner for the sole purpose of starting a sexual
The general practitioner was not the woman's usual doctor. He
recognised the warning signs after the woman confessed her "crush"
at a consultation and appropriately consulted a colleague. He also
appropriately terminated the doctor-patient relationship, although
he did not formally document this.
It was held that the general
practitioner's conduct in entering into a relationship with a
recent patient was ethically inappropriate. As the professional, it
is the doctor's responsibility to take steps to avoid any blurring
of boundaries in the doctor-patient relationship. However, in light
of all the circumstances, including his agreement to receive
regular mentoring, it was considered that no further action was