The Male Doctor and the Female Patient

Start­ing today, once a month or more fre­quently, I will also address the chang­ing par­a­digms of the doctor-patient relationship.

Last month, a fam­ily physician’s name was dragged into the spot­light when a female patient of his cried “rape” after a con­sul­ta­tion, where he and she were alone in the con­sult­ing room for some time while the recep­tion­ist sat out­side and the hus­band went off to attend to some work.

This piece is not about the rape alle­ga­tion or whether the doc­tor was wrong or has been wronged. The doc­tor how­ever did make one mis­take. He spent time alone with a female patient in his con­sult­ing room, with the door closed!

In today’s day and age, each male physi­cian has to adhere to one zero-tolerance rule. “NEVER see a female patient alone, irre­spec­tive of age, with­out a female atten­dant or a rel­a­tive in the same room”. NEVER, EVER!

We wear seat­belts to pro­tect our­selves from injury. We exer­cise to ward-off ill health. Sim­i­larly, we need to take mea­sures to pre­vent any inci­dent that can pos­si­bly smear our name and rep­u­ta­tion. There are many such poten­tial volatile sit­u­a­tions, but none more than see­ing a female patient alone in the con­sult­ing room.

I am para­noid! I don’t even see female employ­ees alone in my office, except for a few who I have known for don­keys’ years and even then only for short peri­ods of time, or with the door of the office open. If I am doing appraisals, I actu­ally have the man­ager wait just out­side the door…if a female employee goes out cry­ing for what­ever rea­son, it needs to be under­stood that there was no per­sonal or phys­i­cal man­han­dling of any sort.

Sim­i­larly with patients! By stay­ing alone in a room with a female patient, the male doc­tor exposes him­self to the pos­si­bil­ity of an alle­ga­tion of inap­pro­pri­ate behav­ior. How dif­fi­cult is it to have some­one else in the room?

In our coun­try, rarely do patients come alone. There is invari­ably an atten­dant, a rel­a­tive or a friend with the patient (some­times 4 or 5 of them). Have that person(s) stay in the room! It is very dif­fi­cult to make a rape or abuse attempt stick when you are alone and the per­sons accus­ing you, many. Assum­ing for what­ever rea­son that a female patient has come alone, then get a female staff mem­ber to wait inside the room. And if that is an issue, then request another patient or rel­a­tive to be inside the con­sult­ing room, after explain­ing the sit­u­a­tion and tak­ing per­mis­sion from all concerned.

Many doc­tors will have a bunch of excuses. “I can’t afford to have so much staff. My con­sult­ing is small. That patient was a 70-years old lady. I am 75 years old. My child patient is only 8-years old.”

Rub­bish! Just as we now all have pro­fes­sional indem­nity insur­ance (just a few year ago, doc­tors used to laugh at the con­cept), and just as we now take detailed informed con­sent for all pro­ce­dures (some­thing that was often not done for many, many years), we need to take ade­quate mea­sures to pro­tect ourselves.

I repeat! NEVER see a female patient alone in a room! No exceptions!

And for female patients who are vis­it­ing male doc­tors! Please insist on some­one else being in the room with you and ensure that you are never alone with a male doc­tor. This is in your inter­est as well as the doctor’s. Prefer­ably, try and antic­i­pate a sit­u­a­tion like this and take some­one along with you! It will save every­one a lot of trouble.

23 Comments

  • Dushyant Bhatia wrote:

    bit­ter truth.. i read today what Tagore said..“Facts may be many, but truth is one”.. alas this no longer holds true as peo­ple have lost their val­ues & we all have become para­noid ..unfor­tu­nately or for­tu­nately sup­port comes to female ‘vic­tim’ who may be rightly or wrongly blam­ing a male coun­ter­part ! Who is the realy vic­tim, no one out­side the closed doors know.. sooner sim­i­lar clauses will be applic­a­ble between hus­band & wife going by the num­ber of false DV cases being filed every day all over India ! God bless all !

  • Satish Rao wrote:

    The same applies when one employs a female maid to clean your house or to do the cook­ing. If you are alone, do not get into argu­ment about the qual­ity of her work or about any­thing. The maid may not com­plain that she had been raped — it is dif­fi­cult to prove. But she may say that her employer tried to rape her. It will have enough bad pub­lic­ity even if the case is not proved and the employer is sub­se­quently acquitted.

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    That is so true Satish. I am equally para­noid about this.

  • Sundaram M R wrote:

    Life used to be sim­ple, not any­more. True, now one needs to take such basic pre­ca­tions, like wear­ing a seat­belt while driving!

  • sachin khachane wrote:

    Need CCTV in our con­sult­ing room also !!!

  • Chandrashekar wrote:

    It is a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion. There are sev­eral cases where women are alleged to have insti­gated the male, in order to file rape/ sex­ual dis­crim­i­na­tion cases. They sleep around with the a man for sev­eral years,and then when the man wants to break the rela­tion­ship, they cry rape and try to extort.

    In any case men ( and doc­tors ) have to learn to avoid such dan­ger­ous situations

  • H.L. Chulani wrote:

    Should a lady doc­tor take the same pre­cau­tions with a male patient ? :-) )

  • jamna varadhachary wrote:

    ditto as Satish said. I had a rule. My elderly maid would some­times send her young daugh­ter If my teenage boys were at home and I was not,the maid was told not to come. I pre­ferred to do the work myself.

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Tweets

  • Ajay Bhonsle wrote:

    I know a lady who com­plains that she finds the phys­i­cal exam­i­na­tion car­ried out by her car­di­ol­o­gist a bit inap­pro­pri­ate, but she trusts his med­ical judge­ment so much that she keeps going back to the same male doc­tor! I also know of a lady doc­tor who says that some of her male patients appear to ‘enjoy’ the exam­i­na­tion!! But I agree that a rel­a­tive or a nurse MUST be present dur­ing any med­ical examination.

  • Mehroo Kharegat wrote:

    I agree with every word you have said. How­ever, what has hap­pened to us? Have we lost all sense of Decency and Integrity? Does the word ‘Faith’ not have any mean­ing? A reg­u­lar Doc­tor you went to was called a ‘Fam­ily Doc­tor’ because both he and you felt part of one fam­ily. Due to present devel­op­ments, is all this to be for­got­ten? Worse still, have we women fought for free­dom and equal rights to one day hang our heads in shame? Though I agree with every word you say it is a sad day when one needs to fol­low your advice.

  • Armaity Patel wrote:

    As Bhavin says, ‘every pre­cau­tion should be taken and not even age dif­fer­ences to be given as an excuse to be alone with a There­fore now many female patients like to see an female doc­tor and vice versa!
    But then there are the nurses ! Can they attend a male patient? In Amer­ica there are both male and female nurses and male nurse even sponge female patients. But if you request for a female only, then they do respect your wishes.
    In short, Bet­ter safe than sorry! Even with the house­maids, school bus atten­dants, etc. Cheer up, we are liv­ing in the world of Paranoids!!

  • I believe that a patient has com­plete faith in his Doc­tor espes­cially a female patient who some­times feel very awk­word to share some prob­lems with his doc­tor. I feel very ashamed when i hear such inci­dents where Doc­tor is blamed even if he is not at fault. Thus i agree every word u said in your article.

  • Yes indeed. Bit­ter truth.

    A story of a fash­ion model hav­ing extorted com­pen­sa­tion from a plas­tic Sur­geon after mak­ing such alle­ga­tions did make rounds recently.

    Set­ting up a CCTV cam­era in the con­sult­ing room is a good idea. How­ever, it may trig­ger pri­vacy con­cerns in patients.

    I’m sure this would not be pos­si­ble in a gynac/ USG/ prob­a­bly even sur­gi­cal clinics.

    I would like to have your/ reader’s views on this issues.

    Prob­a­bly best to have a lady attendant.

  • DR. ASHOK SHAH, NAIROBI wrote:

    One thing I do as a nor­mal prac­tice when­ever a female patient come alone is to keep the con­sult­ing room slightly ajar so that the patient is not locked into the room for exam­i­na­tion and the sec­re­tary can actu­ally watch what is being done

  • Navneet Joshi wrote:

    Nowa­days it is desir­able to be cau­tious in deal­ing with ladies in each and every sphere of life, by males and vice versa.Anybody can take shel­ter of touch­ing improp­erly or an
    attempt for rape, to take revenge. So what you have sug­gested is very cor­rect. It is bet­ter to be safe instead of becom­ing sorry.

  • My Dear Bahavin
    I am truly sur­prised your sub­ject this week has attracted so many responses. Looks even a DOC will not trust another DOC in case his bet­ter half needs exam­i­na­tion. What code of prac­tice should we name this cau­tion from you.
    Regards
    TNM

  • Janak Sheth wrote:

    With increas­ing media cov­er­age cry­ing wolf has becom­ing com­mon method of mak­ing a quick buck. A lot of it has to do with get­ting rich quick.

    The “accused” faces ignominy, police harass­ment and high costs.

    Trust is becom­ing an expen­sive commodity.

  • Jayesh Desai wrote:

    Though I agree with your rec­om­men­da­tion in Toto, It also depends on how each one has atti­tude towards other and soci­ety as a whole. Trust begat trust and so do dis­trust. Next day after your arti­cle appeared there was news about govt. hosp. doc­tor mis­be­hav­ing with female patient. Unfor­tu­nately there is pal­pa­ble and mea­sur­able decline in moral val­ues and ethics of soci­ety as a whole. Doc­tors come from this same soci­ety. So we have to accept that there will be more bad eggs, black sheep. If we do not act then gov­ern­ment will step in sooner rather then later and we will have more laws to fol­low and more forms to fill. What hap­pened in sex deter­mi­na­tion test with sonol­o­gist illus­trates this point.So if more such cases are reported your rec­om­men­da­tions will be known as Bhavin’s Law!

  • ashvin wrote:

    con­fi­den­tial inter­view may help many female patients to find out­let to com­plaint against mother-in-law sister-in-law or hus­band when she with fam­ily doc­tor .good lis­ten­ing and con­sol­ing can be part of treat­ment of her depres­sion and aches and pains very unfor­tu­nates land up with psychiatrist

  • All very well said. I con­cur every word you have written.Both the male Docs. and the female play with the sit­u­a­tion to ensure a ben­e­fit of doubt.

  • doc­tors can never be trusted as far as dig­nity or phys­i­cal pri­vacy is con­cerned. these peo­ple treat their patients shame­lessly. in OTs they expose female patients nude in front of even ward boys and still try to behave as noth­ing wrong has hap­pened. they always use to jus­tify their shame­less atti­tude but will never respect any of patient’s pref­er­ences. no one knows of some­one is tak­ing a pic of females inside OT or some one is touch­ing their pri­vate part­sor doing some­thing else.

  • can you throw light when male ward boys are allowed to roam freely in oper­at­ing room while female patients are lying uncon­sious doing surgery?

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