Indian doctors have taken upon themselves to resolve one of the most neglected public health problems, i.e. violation of sexual boundaries by health professionals.
The Indian Psychiatric Society (IPS) has circulated draft guidelines on sexual boundaries for doctors to follow while treating their patients. The guidelines stipulate that no doctor shall be intimate with his patient, physically or mentally, even if it is consensual. This also extends to family members who are part of the therapeutic doctor-patient-family dynamic.
The guidelines also prohibit the doctors from ‘inappropriately’ touching a patient and suggest they conduct physical examinations in the presence of a third person or a chaperon. Any doctor found violating these guidelines may be punished as per relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code that deals with rape, child sexual abuse, sexual molestation, adultery and sexual harassment at workplace.
However, the guidelines allow doctors and patients to enter into a relationship legally once the minimum time-frame of one year elapses after termination of treatment.
Laws relating to sexual abuse in India are mainly women centric. But the guidelines on sexual boundaries for doctors are not gender specific and apply to both male and female doctors and patients. The guidelines are expected to be formally adopted in October this year.