When the doctor-patient relationship turns sexual

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Author: Roger Collier
Date: Mar. 1, 2016
Publisher: CMA Impact Inc.
Document Type: Article
Length: 1,625 words
Lexile Measure: 1350L

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Simon asked her to lunch because he needed a shoulder to cry on. His girlfriend, who was diagnosed with a brain tumour some time ago, had recently died. During lunch, she told Simon that she had just ended a relationship and joined a dating service. Quit the dating agency, Simon told her, and go out with me instead. She was taken aback--gobsmacked, really. Here she was, expecting to console someone in grief, and was instead faced with an ill-timed romantic proposal.

Still, she was interested. Just two days earlier, she had been crying into her cappuccino with her girlfriends, worried that she would never again find a loving relationship. So, despite her reservations, she accepted Simon's offer. Their relationship blossomed, and the couple wed two years later.

But in 2013, after 13 years of marriage, they decided it was time to end the relationship, which they felt had deteriorated beyond repair. By then, in fact, Simon had already begun seeing someone else, a businesswoman named Ellen. A mere six months after the divorce, in February of 2014, Simon married Ellen, and they remain together today.

There are, however, a few complicating factors about this story, beyond the regular emotional turmoil that so often accompanies failed romantic endeavors. Simon's full name is Simon Holmes, and he is a 59-year-old family doctor in the United Kingdom. He got to know his first wife, identified in court hearings as Patient A, while treating her for depression. And he got to know his second wife, identified in court hearings as Patient B, while counselling her over relationship troubles with her former husband. After these details eventually came to light, a medical disciplinary panel suspended Holmes from practising for three months for failing to maintain professional boundaries.

This case, of course, is a rather exceptional one. British newspapers had a field day with it, more than one going all caps in their headlines to note Holmes had married not one but TWO of his patients. Though instances of doctors and patients entering romantic relationships are indeed rare, it does sometimes happen. Physicians sometimes have sexual relationships with patients, or with former patients. Sometimes the initiator is the physician, and sometimes it is the patient. Often times these are clear-cut cases of unethical behaviour on the part of doctors --perhaps even criminal behaviour. But sometimes, in certain contexts, considering certain factors, these affairs of the heart are a little more complicated.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A444400220