Ethics

Romantic or Sexual Relationships With Patients

Code of Medical Ethics Opinion 9.1.1

Romantic or sexual interactions between physicians and patients that occur concurrently with the patient physician relationship are unethical. Such interactions detract from the goals of the patient-physician relationship and may exploit the vulnerability of the patient, compromise the physician’s ability to make objective judgments about the patient’s health care, and ultimately be detrimental to the patient’s well-being.

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A physician must terminate the patient-physician relationship before initiating a dating, romantic, or sexual relationship with a patient.

Likewise, sexual or romantic relationships between a physician and a former patient may be unduly influenced by the previous physician-patient relationship. Sexual or romantic relationships with former patients are unethical if the physician uses or exploits trust, knowledge, emotions, or influence derived from the previous professional relationship, or if a romantic relationship would otherwise foreseeably harm the individual.

In keeping with a physician’s ethical obligations to avoid inappropriate behavior, a physician who has reason to believe that nonsexual, nonclinical contact with a patient may be perceived as or may lead to romantic or sexual contact should avoid such contact.

AMA Principles of Medical Ethics: I, II, IV

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Code of Medical Ethics: Sexual boundaries

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