Professional doctors don’t treat attractive patients differently from any other. Unprofessional ones, however, might well give them some extra attention. But the answer also depends on what these doctors find “attractive” in the first place.
Personally speaking, from my position shadowing and observing lots of doctors as a med student, I haven’t noticed doctors changing their treatment style much in many of the consultations I’ve seen. But maybe I’ve just been lucky! I’m not saying it doesn’t happen or those doctors aren’t out there.
My conversations with doctors (and soon-to-be doctors) however, shows one common thing in regards to this question. Doctors are humans too. And by being humans they’re not without sexual drives or impulses.
But even when they do find some patients attractive (which I almost guarantee happens), the job calls for professionalism always. Treating them differently; asking more personal questions, performing unduly clinical exams etc., could all be construed as malpractice. Doing these things could rightly jeopardise a doctor’s job too.
One thing that could make such a problem easier, based on my research? The fact that hospitals and clinics aren’t the most romantic of places. While the work; blood taking, catheters, cannulas and the like, is usually far from arousing either (unless you’re kind of weird).
Rules On Doctor-Patient Romantic Relationships
According to the American Medical Association’s (AMA) Code of Medical Ethics 9.1.1 (ironic number), romantic or sexual interactions between physicians and patients are considered “unethical”.
Ignoring that code, so says the text, could make patients “vulnerable” or impair the physicians ability to make “objective judgements” about their welfare.
But aside from being a code of conduct, is there a real risk of being fired as a doctor by falling foul of this ethical quandary? This Texas-based doctor, who fell in deep with a patient, only faced a fine and 10-hours ethics education for example.
What’s interesting here is the fall-out from the case. Many saw the result as an unfair example given the number of unpunished medical mistakes (ones that actually physically hurt patients) that go without reprimand.
So while the code of conduct says no to doctor-patient romantic relationships, there’s a lot of people (doctors included) who think otherwise. Some, it seems, don’t see it as too much of a big deal.
I guess it depends on the circumstances.
What Happens If A Doctor Has A Crush On A Patient?
The quick answer here is nothing. A doctor with a crush on a patient is supposed to leave it at exactly that.
Of course that’s in the ideal world where the aforementioned code of ethics rules with an iron fist however.
The truth is, as we’ve seen in real-world cases where doctors have gotten into relationships with patients initiated on their own accord, that sometimes a doctors crush can escalate.
How it escalates though is an entirely different matter. But, as I know from personal observation, there’s nothing to stop a patient and a doctor exchanging private contact numbers. Nor can each be physically restrained from meeting up outside for a coffee or drink either.
99 times out of 100 though I’d assume doctors don’t act on their crush. To many, it’s just not worth the risk to their professional career (or family life).
Real life isn’t some wacky rom-com.
Can A Doctor Have A Relationship With A Patient?
The AMA’s code 9.1.1. of ethical conduct again says no. But there is a key word; concomitant. Meaning a doctor can’t have a relationship with a patient they have now.
This doesn’t specifically rule out a doctor having a relationship with a patient from the past.
Interestingly, in a Medscape ethics survey from 2012, 22% of respondents said that romantic relationships with former patients would be acceptable (as long as 6 months had passed between the end of the professional relationship). So “no” is not a resounding answer.
As the survey helps to highlight; relationships are complicated. The real answer requires checking your country or state of work’s code of ethics and laws. But then even they (as this US-case shows) might not provide a concrete answer.
My personal advice however is no. You shouldn’t have a relationship (romantic or otherwise) with any one of your patients (past or future).
Besides, that’s what dating apps are for right?
How Common Is It For A Doctor To Be Physically Attracted To Their Patients?
Doctors are real people. It’s as common for them to be physically attracted to patients (people) as it is anyone else. So I guess it broadly comes down to libido – and what they deem “attractive” of course!
Physical attraction is a complicated thing however. And it manifests in each of us in different ways (not just the obvious tell tale signs). You also have to physically see patients too in order to be attracted to them.
Something not every pathologist, certain surgeons or other specialists always have the opportunity to do!
The truth is there’s no hard data here to answer this question with any degree of confidence. It’s mainly just anecdote or opinion, given how difficult it is to define and measure.
So if it’s that you want; here’s what I think. How common is it for doctors to be physically attracted to their patients? Not that common.
Most “healthy” people fit and in shape? Don’t need to see a doctor.
They just get you on the routine check-ups.
The subjects of “attraction” and “attractiveness”, in terms of doctors and patients, are hard to quantify. Although being a doctor exposes you to people, your specialism often determines what demographic of people you most see – just ask my friends in geriatrics!
Whether doctors treat attractive patients differently or not depends on the doctor. Professionally they’re not supposed to, but we all know how unconscious bias plays out.
The older you get though the more all this becomes less of a worry. Another pro for going into medicine after the age of 30.
Image Credit: @jens_lindner at Unsplash
Born and raised in the UK, Will went into medicine late (31) after a career in journalism. He’s into football (soccer), learned Spanish after 5 years in Spain, and has had his work published all over the web. Read more.