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Sexual harassment allegations against doctors: Facts and fiction


A. Dayapala ,

District General Hospital, Negombo, LK
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W. R. A. S. Rajapaksha

District General Hospital, Negombo, LK
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The doctor – patient relationship is unique due to its intimacy, confidentiality and asymmetry of power. The very nature of it can result in abuse of patients by doctors and this has prompted the profession to introduce codes of conduct for doctors, namely medical ethics from the very beginning of the organized medical practice.

Medical ethics especially prohibit sexual relationships with patients and their family members. Sri Lanka Medical Council categorizes such relationships as acts of serious professional misconduct. But sexual harassment allegations against doctors by patients are reported from time to time and a proportion of them are true allegations. However, there is ample room for false allegations too.

Misunderstanding of examination procedures by patients, psychiatric disorders of patients such as “transference”, hallucinations induced by drugs - especially sedatives and anaesthetic agents - and personal grudges arising out of unfulfilled wishes as in insurance claims have been recognized as some reasons for false allegations.

Though clinicians are at a higher risk, forensic practitioners cannot be considered totally immune to such allegations. As these allegations are very damaging to the individual practitioners as well as to the whole profession, preventive measures must be adopted.

Proper application of the concept of “informed consent” in doctor-patient relationship and insistence on good ethical practices such as the presence of a chaperone under all circumstances are simple practical measures that can be adopted to minimize such false allegations.

Doctors must be aware of the potential risks under specific circumstances for their own safety, integrity of the profession and the wellbeing of their patients.

Medico-Legal Journal of Sri Lanka 2015; 3(1) : 22-24

How to Cite: Dayapala, A. and Rajapaksha, W.R.A.S., 2016. Sexual harassment allegations against doctors: Facts and fiction. Medico-Legal Journal of Sri Lanka, 3(1), pp.22–24. DOI:
Published on 14 Jan 2016.
Peer Reviewed


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