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It can provide valuable information to assist in the diagnosis of patients.
However, physical examinations should be clinically warranted.
Patients need to trust that their doctor will act in their best interests, treat them professionally, not breach their privacy and never take advantage of them.
Exploitation of the doctor-patient relationship undermines the trust that patients have in their doctors and the community has in the profession.
Unwarranted physical examinations or inappropriate touching during a consultation and examination may constitute sexual assault. Doctors are responsible for establishing and maintaining sexual boundaries with their patients.
Breaching sexual boundaries is always unethical and usually harmful for many reasons including: There is a wide range of behaviours that breach sexual boundaries, from making unnecessary comments about a patient’s body or clothing, to criminal behaviour such as sexual assault.
Warning signs include but are not limited to: If a doctor senses any of these warning signs, or if a patient talks about or displays inappropriate feelings towards a doctor or exhibits sexual behaviour, the doctor should consider whether this is interfering with the patient’s care and/or placing the doctor or the patient at risk.
In these situations, the doctor should try to constructively re-establish professional boundaries and seek advice from an experienced and trusted colleague or their professional indemnity insurer about how to best manage the situation.
Good medical practice involves ‘never using your professional relationship to establish or pursue a sexual, exploitative or other inappropriate relationship with anybody under your care.
This includes those close to the patient such as their carer, guardian or spouse or the parent of a child patient.