National survey on physicians' attitudes toward social and sexual contact with patients

South Med J. 1994 Nov;87(11):1067-71. doi: 10.1097/00007611-199411000-00002.


To determine the attitudes of physicians toward social and sexual contact with patients, we mailed a self-report survey to a nationwide randomized sample including general practitioners, internists, obstetrician-gynecologists, and ophthalmologists. The 777 physicians who responded specified whether or not behavior such as hugging, dating, and sexual contact with their own patients may be appropriate. Less than 1% of all respondents thought that sexual contact with patients was appropriate during patient consultations. Three percent of internists and obstetrician-gynecologists considered sexual contact with patients appropriate when concurrent with treatment but outside of patient consultation, as compared with 9% of general practitioners and 12% of ophthalmologists (X2 = 17.8, df = 3, P < .001). Nearly 50% of general practitioners and more than 50% of all other physicians thought that sexual contact might be appropriate after termination of treatment of a patient. These findings may facilitate professional discussion on standards for social and sexual contact with patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Family Practice
  • Female
  • Friends
  • Gynecology
  • Humans
  • Internal Medicine
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Obstetrics
  • Ophthalmology
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Professional Misconduct
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires