27 Nov 2018
Revised Medical Board of Australia guidelines on Sexual boundaries in the doctor-patient relationship take effect on 12 December 2018.
The guidelines remind doctors that trust in the relationship between doctors and patients is a cornerstone of good medical practice.
Sexual misconduct is an abuse of the doctor-patient relationship and can cause significant and lasting harm to patients.
‘Patients have a right to feel safe when they are consulting a doctor,’ Medical Board Chair, Dr Anne Tonkin said.
‘Patients trust doctors to act in their best interests, treat them professionally, protect their privacy and never take advantage of them,’ she said.
The updated guidelines apply to all registered medical practitioners in Australia and define the standards of ethical and professional conduct expected of doctors by the Board, their peers and the community.
They complement Good medical practice: a code of conduct for doctors in Australia and do not change the ethical and professional conduct expected of doctors.
Breaches of sexual boundaries in the doctor-patient relationship are one reason the Board refers doctors to tribunals for disciplinary action. In 2017/18, 10 cases involving allegations of serious sexual misconduct were decided by tribunals – all received an adverse finding.
‘It’s hard to believe that in 2018, there is still a need for the Board to issue guidance on the importance of sexual boundaries between doctors and patients,’ Dr Tonkin said.
‘While the vast majority of doctors in Australia provide the community with excellent medical care, a small number of doctors cause serious harm to patients when they do not maintain sexual boundaries,’ she said.
The revised guidelines replace the current guidelines, Sexual boundaries: guidelines for doctors. They follow a scheduled review, supported by wide-ranging stakeholder consultation.