I have written on several occasions about the problems that can occur if a physician has a personal relationship with a patient. Most often this arises in the context of a romantic relationship between the doctor and the patient and it usually does not end well for the doctor. This short article chronicles a real event that happened to a physician and, hopefully, it will be an object lesson for doctors and help them avoid this pitfall.
In this case, the doctor was pursued by his female patient to have an affair. The doctor, to his credit, said “no” repeatedly. Finally, the doctor managed to force the patient to the care of another physician. This cured the problem except the doctor agreed to one last meeting with the patient, this time in a restaurant. The dinner apparently went on without difficulty but then there was the walk back to the doctor’s office. At the front door of the office, the patient and the doctor embraced, kissed, then said goodbye.
You might think that this was the end of the story, but you would be wrong. The patient filed a complaint with the Office of Professional Medical Conduct, OPMC, alleging that the doctor had forced her into an improper relationship. The doctor swore that nothing had happened and the patient was simply making up the story. Unfortunately, after the doctor had stated that no personal relationship had occurred, the patient revealed that she had hired an investigator on the evening of the dinner and she trotted out the videotape showing the dinner, the arm-in-arm walk back to the office and the kissing in front of the office. Thus, the doctor was made out to be a liar to OPMC. This resulted in a public censure which has now been on the OPMC website for over 20 years. This public punishment will probably never be removed by OPMC and therefore will be present for the rest of the doctor’s career.
So, please take notice, your patients can be your worst enemies and can cause you irreparable harm. Do not drop your guard at any time. As can be seen, patients have the ability to go to the limit to damage a physician for reasons that escape the rest of us.
Forewarned is forearmed.