On intimate relationships between healthcare professionals and patients: a nationwide cohort analysis of medical tribunal decisions in the Netherlands

Wim Rietdijk*, Sander Renes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Abstract

Background: We examine the incidence of medical tribunal decisions and disciplinary actions (DAs) against healthcare professionals (HCPs). In addition, we studied whether an intimate relationship between an HCP and patient as part of the medical tribunal decision is associated with an increased likelihood of disciplinary actions. Methods: We conducted a nationwide cohort analysis on the downloadable medical tribunal decisions from a medical disciplinary tribunal in the Netherlands from 2010 to 2017. Results: We found that 117 (2.8%) of the 4,046 medical tribunal decisions involved an alleged intimate relationship between an HCP and patient. In these medical tribunal decisions the likelihood of a disciplinary action was significantly increased (odds ratio [OR] 12.97, 95% Confidence Interval [95% CI] 7.11–23.64). In addition, we found that nurses and psychiatrists are more frequently accused of and receive disciplinary actions due to intimate relationships than other HCP groups. Conclusions: We found a limited number of medical tribunal decisions involving an intimate relationship. Especially given the total number of medical tribunal decisions and the number of yearly HCP-patient interactions, the number appears small. Furthermore, an alleged intimate relationship or inappropriate sexual conduct is associated with an increased likelihood of disciplinary action. Future research should obtain statistics on the number of intimate relationships that actually start between HCPs and patients.
Original languageEnglish
Article number60
JournalBMC Medical Ethics
Volume22
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • Inappropriate sexual conduct
  • Medical disciplinary actions
  • Medical doctors & healthcare professionals
  • Professional behavior

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