Case study - dating a patient

Your friend, who is also a doctor in the same unit, has posted Facebook photos of a drunken date. 

You recognise the girl as an 18 year old patient who was under the care of your friend several weeks ago. You know that doctors shouldn't date patients so you challenged your friend, worried that he could get into trouble. He reassured you that she made the first move by sending him a friend request on Facebook. He says that she is not a vulnerable patient and he is doing nothing wrong. He mentions she needs cheering up because her mother died recently and he is planning to take her away for a weekend.

You are still worried so you call the MDU.

The MDU adviser explains that, although nobody wants to see their friends in trouble, you have a duty to protect patients. 

The GMC says that doctors must not use their professional position to pursue a sexual or improper emotional relationship with a patient. This means that it is usually inappropriate to start a relationship with a former patient, especially if the professional relationship was protracted or ended recently, or if the patient was or remains vulnerable. 

This patient was treated very recently and could be emotionally vulnerable because of her young age and her bereavement. The GMC also say that doctors should take action if a colleague is acting in a way that puts patients at risk. The first step to raising a concern in hospital is usually to speak with someone in authority such as the lead consultant in the department, or medical director. You must be clear, honest and objective about the reason for your concern.

More information can be found in the GMC's guidance Maintaining a professional boundary between you and your patient and Raising and acting on concerns about patient safety.

This page was correct at publication on 09/02/2017. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.