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West J Med. Aug 1992; 157(2): 139–143.
PMCID: PMC1011231
Physician-patient sexual contact. Prevalence and problems.
N K Gartrell, N Milliken, W H Goodson, 3rd, S Thiemann, and B Lo
Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco.
To document the current prevalence of physician-patient sexual contact and to estimate its effect on involved patients, 10,000 family practitioners, internists, obstetrician-gynecologists, and surgeons were surveyed. Of the 1,891 respondents, 9% acknowledged sexual contact with 1 or more patients. Even in the unlikely case that none of the nonrespondents had sexual contact with patients, its prevalence among all 10,000 physicians surveyed would still be 2%. Of respondents, 23% had at least 1 patient who reported sexual contact with another physician; 63% thought this contact was "always harmful" to the patients. Almost all (94%) responding physicians opposed sexual contact with current patients; 37% also opposed sexual contact with former patients. More than half of respondents (56%) indicated that physician-patient sexual contact had never been addressed in their training; only 3% had participated in a continuing education course focusing on this issue. Clear and enforceable medical ethics codes concerning physician-patient sexual contact are needed, as well as preventive educational programs for medical schools and residency programs.
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