Patients will have specific expectations regarding the degree of privacy they should be given and the way in which respect for their human dignity will be demonstrated.
The Code of Ethics advises to: Treat all patients with respect; do not exploit them for personal advantage. This ethical requirement implies that a physician will respect a patient's need for privacy and right to be treated with dignity. Accordingly, the physician will avoid actions or comments which have a harmful effect in either respect. The extent to which a physician would be assessed as deficient in clinical practice would depend on the extent to which the following factors were not taken into account.
- Emotional maturity, ie. Very young or emotionally immature; Increased vulnerability (whether due to age or illness); the discussion/examination has sexual connotations; the patient contact is new; the patient is distressed about the reason for the visit; the patient is asked to assume a state of undress or position which seems unusual for the examination involved or to which the patient stated an objection;
- the patient requests that an attendant be present or the door be left open.
Recognize that the self-regulation of the profession is a privilege and that each physician has a continuing responsibility to merit this privilege.Examinations - Respecting Privacy
A physician should be aware of the likely heightened sensitivity of a patient whose privacy is to be invaded. Apprehension can be expected in examinations such as rectals, pelvics, breasts and genitalia. Physicians should assess the quality of the patient's comfort with such procedures before proceeding. Whether or not an attendant should be present depends on the preference of the patient and the discretion of the physician. A rectal/pelvic examination should not be performed if an attendant is not readily available for assistance.
6/94; am. 9/99