Aims: To examine attitudes toward sexual contact with patients including seductive and sexually demeaning verbal behaviour.
Methods: Anonymous questionnaire mailed to a nationwide randomised sample of 217 general practitioners. A response rate of 88% was obtained.
Main outcomes measures: Attitudes were appraised through responses about the acceptability of sexual contact with current and former patients. Knowledge of colleagues engaging in sexual contact, seductive or sexually demeaning behaviour was also assessed. Disposition toward reporting colleagues was explored.
Results: Ninety per cent of general practitioners indicated that it was never permissible to have sexual contact with a current patient. Twenty per cent agreed that it was never permissible to have sexual contact with a patient even when treatment had been terminated. While only 4% and 6% respectively knew of a general practitioner who had engaged in seductive or sexually demeaning verbal behaviour, 32% had personally known of a colleague who had engaged in sexual contact with a patient. Participants were divided in their attitudes toward reporting colleagues for sexual misdemeanours with patients.
Conclusion: The results have implications for the development of guidelines and the training of general practitioners.