Boundary Violations in Healthcare Professional Cases

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If you have been accused of a boundary violation, such as an inappropriate touching or inappropriate relationship, call the Law Offices of Brian E. Quinn to speak to an attorney before you answer any questions.

It is important that you are aware of your rights and duties before you respond to questions from anyone, including an employer, concerning a boundary violation. If you are contacted by an investigator for the Bureau of Enforcement and Investigations, the agency that investigates complaints against healthcare professionals, you should contact an attorney before speaking to any investigator concerning a boundary violation.

Our law office provides strong representation on behalf of healthcare professionals who have been accused of boundary violations. If your medical license is in jeopardy, contact us to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.

What Are The Consequences of a Boundary Violation?

A boundary violation may result in disciplinary action by the Licensing Board including a suspension or revocation.

If you are involved in a sexual relationship with a patient or former patient, the rules vary depending on the profession and specialty within the profession.

For instance, if you are a Board-regulated practitioner who is involved with the management or treatment of a patient other than the practitioner's spouse for a mental health disorder, any sexual behavior, with that former patient which occurs prior to the two year anniversary of the termination of the professional relationship constitutes unprofessional conduct, is prohibited, and subjects the practitioner to disciplinary action. See Section 16.110 which is issued under Sections 8 and 41(8) of the Medical Practice Act of 1985 (63 P.S. 442.8 and 442.41)(8).

Supreme Court Decision Regarding General Practitioners

Recently, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, in a case of first impression, held that a doctor who is a general practitioner and who provided incidental mental health treatment for a patient was not held to the same duty as a mental health specialist for purposes of a professional negligence action. See Thierfelder v. Wolfert ___A.3d___, 2012 WL 4473297 (Pa.).

The Thierfelder case is a malpractice case brought against a family practitioner with the allegations being that the doctor acted negligently when he had a consensual sexual relationship with a woman for one year while she was his patient and being treated by him for anxiety and depression.

Although the court held that this conduct is not actionable under a tort theory, a healthcare professional who engages in similar sexual conduct may still face discipline by his or her respective licensing board.

What Counts as a Boundary Violation?

The AMA Code of Ethics, Opinon 8.14 - Sexual Misconduct in the Practice of Medicine states as follows:

Sexual contact that occurs concurrent with the patient-physician relationship constitutes sexual misconduct. Sexual or romantic interactions between physicians and patients detract from the goals of the physician-patient relationship, may exploit the vulnerability of the patient, may obscure the physician's objective judgment concerning the patient's health care, and ultimately may be detrimental to the patient's well being.

If a physician has reason to believe that non-sexual contact with a patient may be perceived as or may lead to sexual contact, then he or she should avoid the non-sexual contact. At a minimum, a physician's ethical duties include terminating the physician-patient relationship before initiating a dating, romantic, or sexual relationship with a patient.

Sexual or romantic relationships between a physician and former patient may be unduly influenced by the previous physician-patient relationship. Sexual or romantic relationships with former patients are unethical if the physician uses or exploits trust, knowledge, emotions, or influence derived from the previous professional relationship.

Contact Our License Defense Law Firm

If you are involved in a boundary violation situation, or have been accused of one, contact us immediately. If it is apparent that your conduct resulted in a boundary violation, we may be able to mitigate any potential discipline by referring you for appropriate treatment which may include undergoing a comprehensive course on boundary violations. To schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys, call 215-268-7241 or contact us online.