Frustrated doctor leaning on window

Seven Things You Can Do to Avoid Claims of Sexual Assault in Your Medical Practice

We live in a litigious society. Some people make false allegations against physicians as a “get rich quick” scheme. A Seattle criminal defense attorney for healthcare professionals can defend you if you find yourself in this situation. Here are seven things you can do to avoid claims of sexual assault in your medical practice:

Create Boundaries at Social Functions

It is nearly impossible for a doctor to attend a social function without someone asking for medical advice. The best way to control the situation and avoid allegations of impropriety, including sexual assault, is to instruct the person to call your office and make an appointment to see you there. 

When you insist that people see you in the office, you will have the protections of your protocols in place. If someone refuses to see you at your office, that refusal should be a red flag. 

Always Have a Second Staff Member Present in Examining Rooms 

When there are no witnesses, a patient who creates false allegations has little incentive, to tell the truth. If you have a firm rule at your office that you do not examine any patient one-on-one, you will be far less likely to encounter claims of impropriety. 

A patient might argue that your nurse or assistant is biased in your favor and will say whatever you want. Nonetheless, a jury will be far more suspicious of a doctor who examines patients, particularly the opposite gender, without someone else present. 

The same rule applies to performing other medical procedures. Whenever a patient is in a vulnerable position, the doctor is wise to always have a second staff member present. 

Document All Questionable Incidents 

Whenever something happens with the patient that sets alarm bells in your head ringing, you should make a note in the patient’s chart or in an incident log. For example, if a patient flirts with you during a consultation, gives you a hug or kiss, or engages in other conduct that is not appropriate in a professional setting, you should create a paper trail. Take the time to write down as many details as you can remember. 

Charge for Your Work

You might think you are helping out someone who is struggling financially, but that person might try to twist your kindness into something sinister. By always charging for your medical services, you can avoid a situation in which a patient accuses you of a quid-pro-quo arrangement. 

Refer Problem Patients

If you have a patient who shows a non-professional interest in you, behaves inappropriately, or does things that cause you to question the person’s motivation, you should consider transferring the patient to another physician before things reach another level. 

Let’s say that you were recently divorced, and a patient exhibits a romantic interest in you. You should immediately refer that patient to a doctor who is unlikely to be a target of the patient. 

Be Mindful of Appearances 

If you become the physician of someone with whom you have a pre-existing relationship, like a friend or co-worker, you should be aware of how other people could perceive your interaction with that patient. Other patients or people in your office might make incorrect assumptions if you treat that patient in a different way than a typical patient. 

For example, a good friend of a dermatologist comes to see her for his psoriasis. In any other setting, these friends might greet each other with a hug or kiss on the cheek. There should be a conversation before the initial appointment, explaining that they should avoid any conduct that could give the appearance of impropriety. 

Avoid Treating Close Friends or Relatives 

It can be extremely difficult to maintain the objectivity needed to practice medicine on someone who is a close relative or friend. Often, the issue will depend upon the nature of the medical practice. For example, a gynecologist or cancer surgeon will face different issues than an eye doctor. Administering a pelvic exam or telling a patient that he has end-stage cancer involves vastly different factors than performing an eye examination for reading glasses. 

If someone accuses you of sexual assault in your medical practice, you should talk with a Seattle criminal defense attorney. Contact our office today.

DISCLAIMER: This post is intended to share my perspective, insights, and some general information on various aspects of criminal cases. It is not legal advice and is not intended to substitute for legal advice. You should consult an attorney to obtain legal advice for your individual situation and case.