Additionally, a physician may be the target of a civil lawsuit by a patient when the relationship comes to an end. Using the defense that the relationship was consensual is typically not a strong one, given societal views that physicians are in the power position when it comes to initiating, or ending, a physician-patient relationship.
Explore this issue:August 2013
If a physician is found to have engaged in sexual misconduct with a patient, he or she may be sanctioned by a state medical board, which can dole out any number of punishments, not limited to censuring the physician privately or publicly or revoking his or her license to practice medicine, said Steven M. Harris, Esq., a health care attorney with the law firm McDonald Hopkins, LLC in Chicago and author of the “Legal Matters” column in ENTtoday.
Harris advises physicians to tell patients, in no uncertain terms, that flirtatious behavior isn’t welcome. “It’s very clear that a physician cannot engage in flirtatious activity with a patient. If the activity continues on, the physician has no option but to terminate the relationship,” he added. “I would follow up a termination in writing and tell the patient: You may seek a physician of your choice, or, if you need a recommendation, we are happy to provide you [with] three names.”