Ethically justified guidelines for defining sexual boundaries between obstetrician-gynecologists and their patients

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1996 Aug;175(2):496-500. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9378(96)70169-2.


Objective: This article proposes ethically justified guidelines that should govern the ethical obligations of obstetrician-gynecologists when they experience sexual feelings toward patients.

Study design: We reviewed literature on physician-patient sexual contact and related that literature to ethical principles.

Results: Existing guidelines that prohibit sexual contact between physicians and patients are based on an ethical argument that such relationships violate the ethical principles of respect for both autonomy and beneficence. This argument is incomplete because patients can provide valid consent for sexual relationships with their own obstetrician-gynecologists.

Conclusion: We propose a virtues-based ethical argument that is independent of informed consent for governing sexual relationships between obstetrician-gynecologists and their patients. In the context of the physician-patient relationship the professional virtues of self-effacement and self-sacrifice obligate the obstetrician-gynecologist to set aside and never act on feelings of sexual attractiveness toward patients.

MeSH terms

  • Ethics, Medical*
  • Female
  • Guidelines as Topic*
  • Gynecology*
  • Humans
  • Obstetrics*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Sexual Behavior*