Research Article

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

BMJ 1992; 304 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.304.6841.1531 (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.

    Abstract

    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.