Patient-physician sexual involvement: a Canadian survey of obstetrician-gynecologists.
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OBJECTIVE: To determine obstetrician-gynecologists' (ob-gyns') awareness of and experience with sexual abuse of patients and former patients and their opinions about appropriate consequences. DESIGN: Mailed survey. SETTING: Canada. PARTICIPANTS: All 792 members of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC); 618 (78%) responded. Approximately half of all ob-gyns in Canada belong to the SOGC. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Knowledge of sexual involvement by an ob-gyn colleague with a patient or former patient (as defined by the respondents and by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario [CPSO]), self-report of such involvement, attitudes toward physician sexual abuse, desirable length of time a physician should wait before seeing a former patient in a situation that could lead to a sexual encounter, suggested consequences of sexual abuse. RESULTS: Overall, 10% of the respondents indicated that they knew about another ob-gyn who at some time had been sexually involved with a patient. In all, 3% of the male respondents and 1% of the female respondents reported sexual involvement with a patient; the corresponding proportions of those who reported having been accused of sexual abuse by a patient were 4% and 2%. Significantly more of the female ob-gyns than of their male counterparts (37% v. 19%) reported awareness of a colleague's sexual involvement with a patient that would meet the CPSO's definition of sexual impropriety, transgression or violation. Most of the respondents felt that the consequence of proven sexual impropriety should be reprimand and fine (chosen by 33%) or rehabilitation without loss of licence (28%). Most of the physicians supported loss of licence for proven sexual transgression (57%) or proven sexual violation (74%), but fewer felt that loss of licence should be permanent for these types of abuse (4% and 24% respectively). The female ob-gyns supported stronger sanctions against sexual transgression and sexual violation than the male ob-gyns. A wide range of opinion was seen regarding the propriety of sexual relationships with former patients. CONCLUSIONS: Ob-gyns have varied opinions about how sexual abuse of patients should be defined and how it should be sanctioned. There is a discrepancy between proposed public policy and the beliefs of physicians to whom the policy is to be applied.
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