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Sexual Relationships with Patients

The sexual exploitation of patients has been a high-visibility malpractice issue for psychiatrists. In psychiatry the conflict of interest is clear because the patient is definitionally at a psychological disadvantage. The conflict is also clear in any situation in which the sexual relations could be termed sexual assault. (See Chapter 6.) This includes any sexual relations in a medical care delivery setting with a patient who is not the medical care provider's spouse or significant other.

The more common problem is the physician who becomes romantically involved with a nonpsychiatric patient. It is important that the physician not continue providing major medical care for such a patient, and it is preferable that the patient be referred to another physician for all medical treatment.

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