The Medical Quality Assurance Commission has instituted a rule that doctors can no longer date their patients. This rule has been enforced despite protests from lawyers and several doctors' groups. Since 1998, the board has received 160 complaints of sexual misconduct by doctors and physician assistants and says that almost 20 percent of the cases resulted in some disciplinary action being taken.
But the Commission says that the rule has been under consideration since the past six years and they felt that now was the right time to go ahead with the enforcement. Those who support this Bill say that it targets misbehavior that is just outside the realm of obvious sexual contact, but opponents maintain that the rule could be misused to unfairly strip licenses of qualified doctors.
State Department of Health spokesman Donn Moyer said that the measure was passed unanimously and that every doctor and physician assistant in the state will come under the scanner once the rule takes effect in about two months' time. The policy contains 11 prohibited acts, the violation of which would cost doctors their licenses. Besides sexual contact, the rules also forbid kissing in a romantic manner. Failure to allow privacy when the patient is undressing also comes under the rule. "This would create a bright line," board member Hampton Irwin said. "If they step over it, they know there will be consequences. "However the Washington State Medical Association and some lawyers say that the rule is not needed since there are already strict measures in place. Some say that the dating ban is unnecessary since in a small town the doctor may not have anyone else to date.