Professionalism and the Intimate Examination-Are Chaperones the Answer?(Original Articles)
‘In every house where I come I will enter only for the good of my patients, keeping myself far from all intentional ill-doing and all seduction and especially from the pleasure of love with women or men, be they free or slaves’, (from The Hippocratic Oath (1)) The prohibition of sexual impropriety in the health practitioner-patient relationship dates back to the time of Hippocrates. Codifying the prohibition in the Hippocratic Oath underscored the vulnerability and highly exploitative situation of patients, the power of the practitioner and the importance of trust, in this unequal relationship. Nevertheless, increasing numbers of complaints of sexual misconduct are lodged against practitioners. At the HPCSA, the number of cases reaching the formal enquiry stage have also increased. The number of complaints lodged during the periods 2006/2007, 2007/2008 and 2009/2010 were 2, 5 and 28 respectively; 12 were finalised at the Preliminary Committees of Disciplinary Enquiry and did not reach a full formal enquiry, and 23 cases reached formal enquiry, with 13 practitioners found guilty. In a 5-year period (2005-2010), 22 practitioners were found guilty of sexual misconduct (9 in 2005 alone). Most of these were medical practitioners or psychologists. (2) Such violations are not necessarily confined to physical actions; when a practitioner inappropriately uses words or actions of a sexual nature with a patient, a professional (sexual) boundary has been violated.