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The General Medical Council, the body that regulates doctors, wants to gauge public opinion before updating its advice to doctors.
In this review of the current evidence, based on major articles listed in Medline and Bioethicsline in the past 15 years, the argument is made here that such relationships are almost always unethical due to the persistence of transference, the unequal power distribution in the original doctor–patient relationship and the ethical implications that arise from both these factors especially with respect to the patient's autonomy and ability to consent, even when a former patient.
Only in very particular circumstances could such relationships be ethically permissible.
"She said he wouldn't leave because of my daughter - he thought too much of her.
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).
Boundaries The GMC's 2001 guidance says doctors must not allow personal relationships to undermine the trust which patients place in them.
the deleterious effects of such relationships upon patients have become increasingly recognized and condemned by the medical community. One such area is whether sexual relationships with patients are ever ethically permissible and, if so, under what circumstances.
Two years after the zero tolerance policy was adopted, the New Zealand Medical Council released a further policy statement in which it stated that whilst complaints regarding sexual relations with former patients will be considered individually, it will be presumed to be unethical if the “doctor–patient relationship involved psychotherapy, or long-term counselling and support; the patient suffered a disorder likely to impair judgement or hinder decision-making; the doctor knew that the patient had been sexually abused in the past; [or] the patient was under the age of 20 when the doctor–patient relationship ended”.
Perhaps it would be too expensive or time-consuming to scrutinize the propriety of these relationships and the effectiveness of consent on a case-by-case basis.
For example, the Supreme Court of the United States has upheld maximum age limits for police officers against the challenge that they violate the Constitution by depriving the officers of the ability to show that they in fact are physically capable of doing the job past the age cut-off.