Steer clear of amorous advances

Boundaries in the doctor-patient relationships can get crossed for a variety of reasons. Dr Gabrielle Pendlebury explores amorous advances from patients and how to handle these delicate situations.

A crossing of a boundary of impropriety is usually part of a pattern or a build-up of behaviour between the patient and the doctor. 

So it is important for clinicians to be mindful of this possibility and are therefore able to spot potential and actual boundary crossings in order to take appropriate action.

The GMC regularly investigates complaints against doctors who are alleged to have had an inappropriate relationship or made inappropriate advances towards patients. The majority involve male doctors.

But boundary transgressions are not limited to doctors; patients can also develop feelings for their clinicians, especially at times of vulnerability. 

Inappropriate feelings may be secondary to loneliness and poor relationships or occasionally they can be related to psychiatric illness, with the patient possibly experiencing delusions.1  

How to manage the amorous patient