Search tips
Search criteria 


Logo of westjmedLink to Publisher's site
West J Med. 1992 August; 157(2): 139–143.
PMCID: PMC1011231

Physician-patient sexual contact. Prevalence and problems.


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.

Full text

Full text is available as a scanned copy of the original print version. Get a printable copy (PDF file) of the complete article (1.1M), or click on a page image below to browse page by page. Links to PubMed are also available for Selected References.

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Campbell ML. The Oath: an investigation of the injunction prohibiting physician-patient sexual relations. Perspect Biol Med. 1989 Winter;32(2):300–308. [PubMed]
  • Feldman-Summers S, Jones G. Psychological impacts of sexual contact between therapists or other health care practitioners and their clients. J Consult Clin Psychol. 1984 Dec;52(6):1054–1061. [PubMed]
  • Kardener SH, Fuller M, Mensh IN. A survey of physicians' attitudes and practices regarding erotic and nonerotic contact with patients. Am J Psychiatry. 1973 Oct;130(10):1077–1081. [PubMed]
  • Perry JA. Physicians' erotic and nonerotic physical involvement with patients. Am J Psychiatry. 1976 Jul;133(7):838–840. [PubMed]
  • Gartrell N, Herman J, Olarte S, Feldstein M, Localio R. Psychiatrist-patient sexual contact: results of a national survey. I: Prevalence. Am J Psychiatry. 1986 Sep;143(9):1126–1131. [PubMed]
  • Gartrell N, Herman J, Olarte S, Localio R, Feldstein M. Psychiatric residents' sexual contact with educators and patients: results of a national survey. Am J Psychiatry. 1988 Jun;145(6):690–694. [PubMed]
  • Bass LW, Wolfson JH. Professional courtesy is obsolete. N Engl J Med. 1978 Oct 5;299(14):772–774. [PubMed]

Articles from The Western Journal of Medicine are provided here courtesy of BMJ Publishing Group