Would you — acting on behalf of the state board — take action against this doctor's license for the offense of providing an antibiotic sample to a current lover? As this example demonstrates, the "no overlap" rule can be unworkably blunt, even in traditional settings.
Physician-patient romance deserves a sophisticated and courageous ethical analysis. We need to rise above the cynical view that love cannot exist, and sex must be abusive and transient, between people with power disparities. Our professional standards are perfectly rational and make fine common sense. Rules are always problematic, especially those that address highly complex human behaviors.I would argue, I think with good support, that love and mating entail the greatest complexity of anything we do as a species.Take the scenario of a single doctor practicing in a small town, one who'd like to settle in the area and raise a family — a euphemism for "find a mate." In our society, this involves romance and courtship, and — for most contemporary couples — some sexual behavior.Because our doctor is the main caregiver in the town, almost anyone is a potential patient.In an effort to refine how the "no overlap" principle should be applied, I'd like to throw a small monkey wrench at this naively simplistic construct.In reducing human behavior to coldly formal, mechanistic terms, we tend to get tripped up.I confess that my wife and I, both licensed practitioners, have violated the "no overlap" principle on numerous occasions with each other.When we worked in a rural town, and even after moving to the city, we occasionally examined, evaluated and treated each other for medical aliments and injuries.