Sunday, 25 September 2016

Chaperones for Doctors Under Investigation for Sexual Misconduct

I have been thinking about this issue for several weeks because my first thought when this  recently arose in relation to a neurologist was that the AMA, who is the organisation responsible for doctors' registration, should stop using the chaperone system for doctors under investigation and just suspend the doctor pending the outcome of an investigation.  This seemed a straight forward answer to me.

Then I spoke to two people who see specialists for serious illnesses and the two patients had a different view.  It had not occurred to me that we should consult with patients about this as it seemed a black and white issue.  However, the view of the two patients was that they wanted a choice about whether they saw their doctor if he/she was under investigation for anything.  In order to have this choice they wanted a notice, stating that the doctor was under investigation and why, to be displayed clearly on the reception desk in the practice. Their views fit with a number of American and Canadian articles about chaperones and their use for medical examinations where it is suggested that patients should be asked if they want a chaperone when they are having an examination. These articles also note that a number of people do not like chaperones being used as it invades their privacy but that in some cases chaperones should always be used.  One situation was pelvic examinations of female patients by male doctors. But it was also noted in one article that 50 per cent of female patients did not want a chaperone in this situation.

In the case of sexual misconduct there should be no choice about a chaperone but whether doctors should be allowed to continue practicing at such times and the conditions around this practice needs some more thought and research.