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J Med Ethics 25:482-486 doi:10.1136/jme.25.6.482
  • Research Article

Arguments for zero tolerance of sexual contact between doctors and patients.

  1. R M Cullen
  1. Avondale Family Health Centre, Auckland, New Zealand.

      Abstract

      Some doctors do enter into sexual relationships with patients. These relationships can be damaging to the patient involved. One response available to both individual doctors and to disciplinary bodies is to prohibit sexual contact between doctors and patients ("zero tolerance"). This paper considers five ways of arguing for a zero tolerance policy. The first rests on an empirical claim that such contact is almost always harmful to the patient involved. The second is based on a "principles" approach while the third originates in "virtues" ethics. The fourth argues that zero tolerance is an "a priori" truth. These four attempt to establish that the behaviour is always wrong and ought, therefore, to be prohibited. The fifth argument is counterfactual. It claims a policy that allowed sexual contact would have unacceptable consequences. Given the responsibility of regulatory bodies to protect the public, zero tolerance is a natural policy to develop.

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