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Doctor–patient sexual relationships in medical oaths
  1. S G Pérez,
  2. R J Gelpi,
  3. A M Rancich
  1. Department of Pathology, Institute of Cardiovascular Physiopathology, Faculty of Medicine, Buenos Aires University, Buenos Aires, Argentina
  1. Correspondence to:
 Ana María Rancich
 Department of Pathology, Institute of Cardiovascular Physiopathology, Faculty of Medicine, Buenos Aires University, C1114AAD Uriburu N 950, 2nd floor, Buenos Aires, Argentina; rancich{at}


Background: Doctor–patient sexual relationship is considered to be unfair because the first party would be abusing the second party’s vulnerability. The prohibition of this relationship is noted in the Hippocratic oath. Currently, a reprise of the use of oaths in medical schools can be observed.

Aim: To determine whether the prohibition has been maintained and how its expression has varied in the oaths during different periods.

Methods: 50 oaths were studied: 13 ancient–medieval and 37 modern–contemporary. Of the 50 texts, 19 were versions of the original oaths. The oaths that pointed out the prohibited doctor–patient relationship referred to any sexual aspect or included paragraphs that began as the Hippocratic oath does were noted.

Results: Of the 24 (48%) texts that expressed the prohibition, 8 (62%) were ancient–medieval and 16 (43%) were modern–contemporary. Some expressly call it Hippocratic oath, many use general terminology (corruption or vice) and others describe it in association with other commitments (abortion and euthanasia).

Conclusions: The clause on the prohibition of the doctor–patient sexual relationship in Hippocratic oath was included to be for legal, economic and social reasons at the time. That the clause is found mostly in the ancient–medieval oaths can be attributed to the influence of the original. This commitment is generalised and associated with others by contemporary formulas. Currently, sexual relationships are the subject of legal and ethical analysis and their inclusion in the oaths is being debated.

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  • Funding: This study was funded by the CONICET 2000 Pluriannual Project, approved on 25 July 2001, Research number 02184.

  • Competing interests: None.