Research Article

Sexual contact in the doctor-patient relationship in The Netherlands.

BMJ 1992; 304 doi: (Published 13 June 1992) Cite this as: BMJ 1992;304:1531
  1. D. Wilbers,
  2. G. Veenstra,
  3. H. B. van de Wiel,
  4. W. C. Weijmar Schultz
  1. Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, State University Hospital, Groningen, Netherlands.


    OBJECTIVE--To obtain data on sexual contact between doctors and their patients. DESIGN--Anonymous questionnaire with 17 items sent to all working gynaecologists (n = 595) and all ear, nose, and throat specialists (n = 380) in the Netherlands. RESULTS--Response rate was 74%; a total 64 doctors gave a reason for not completing the questionnaire. 201 (59%) male gynaecologists and 128 (56%) male ear nose, and throat specialists indicated that sexual feelings are acceptable in the doctor-patient relationship; 286 (85%) and 186 (81%), respectively, had felt sexually attracted to a patient at some time, as had 14 (27%) female gynaecologists. More than half (59%) of the doctors who indicated that sexual feelings are unacceptable in the doctor-patient relationship had experienced these feelings, and 91% of this group had a negative attitude towards these feelings. 4% of respondents in each group had had actual sexual contact with patients. Most gynaecologists were in favour of having more attention paid to sexual problems during training; having their professional society take an official viewpoint; subsequent public support of this viewpoint; and taking on an impartial counsellor for the patients as well as the doctors. CONCLUSION--Sexuality exists in the doctor-patient relationship. Gynaecologists have a higher risk of having sexual contact with their patients than do ear, nose, and throat specialists but compensate for this greater risk by a higher state of recognition and acknowledgement.