Any sexual behavior between a health care provider and a current patient is considered unethical. Certain indicators may occur before behavior escalates out of control. The presence of one or more indicators should prompt the practitioner to take steps to stop or avoid potential risky behavior.


Indicators that may suggest inappropriate sexual behavior could occur:

(1) special scheduling for the patient or seeing the patient after normal business hours

(2) seeing the patient privately outside the office

(3) driving the patient home

(4) making sexually explicit comments

(5) using remarks or gestures that carry sexual innuendo or that are provocative

(6) not having a chaperon present during examinations

(7) contact during a physical examination that is beyond the needs of diagnosis and treatment


The actions that a practitioner takes depends on whether the behavior is limited to a single patient or is a general pattern of behavior. The latter could indicate a deeper psychological issue that needs to be addressed.


Physical touching by itself does not indicate that a problem exists. It is important to recognize that some people naturally use more physical contact than others, depending on personality, culture and upbringing. The hows and whys of the contact are what is important.


Actions the practitioner can take:

(1) consult with a mentor

(2) contact the appropriate professional organization

(3) establish firm boundaries that can be safely guarded

(4) take steps to discontinue contact with the patient (transfer care, etc.)

(5) consult with a psychological counselor.


To read more or access our algorithms and calculators, please log in or register.