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February 19, 1992

A Modest Proposal: A Vow of Chastity for Single Physicians in Remote Areas?

Author Affiliations

USA 130th Station Hospital Heidelberg, Germany

JAMA. 1992;267(7):934. doi:10.1001/jama.1992.03480070050028

To the Editor.  —In "Sexual Misconduct in the Practice of Medicine,"1 the Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs of the American Medical Association concluded that "(1) sexual contact or a romantic relationship concurrent with the physician-patient relationship is unethical; (2) sexual contact or romantic relationship with a former patient may be unethical under certain circumstances." Before initiating a genuine dating or romantic relationship, "a physician's minimum duty would be to terminate his or her professional relationship with the patient."Although the overall intentions of the guidelines are unassailable, it places peculiar restrictions on some unmarried medical practitioners serving remote communities. In some circumstances, a single individual may be the only physician serving a large geographic area. A high percentage of people in that catchment area would be bona fide patients of such a physician. Termination of the professional relationship with anyone in that community could leave that person