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August 14, 1987

Sexual Exploitation of Patients by Health Professionals

Author Affiliations

University of Minnesota Minneapolis

University of Minnesota Minneapolis

JAMA. 1987;258(6):846-847. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03400060122048

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In our culture, the physician is entrusted with complete access to the patient's self, both mental and physical. Other health professionals may have limited privileges, eg, psychotherapists who deal with mental health. Society grants such an unlimited approach by recognizing these groups as professionals in the sphere of health care.

Medicine gained this right during its professionalization, when it acquired institutional attributes recognized by society as sufficient for a profession and was granted autonomy in its function. One of medicine's necessary qualifications is its code of ethics, chief of which is to serve the patient and do no harm. Sexual contact between physician and patient explicitly lies within this arena. It has been forbidden as far back as ancient medicine, exemplified in the Hippocratic Oath, and as recently as today, delineated in the codes of the American Psychiatric Association.

This book deals with sexual exploitation of patients, long existing if