Doctors practicing family medicine in small communities and villages are likely to have treated almost the entire population some time or other in the past in their professional capacity – this would make it well nigh for a single doctor to find a partner in the village since practically everyone is a former patient.
And yet certain precautions must be maintained, warn most medical bodies.
Indeed the AMA’s Code of Medical Ethics on the Physician-Patient relationship states that “The relationship between patient and physician is based on trust and gives rise to physicians’ ethical obligations to place patients’ welfare above their own self-interest and above obligations to other groups, and to advocate for their patients’ welfare.”3However laws and ethics are as much subject to change as are social dynamics of which ultimately form a part.
Thus in recent times there has been a debate whether doctors can date patients under special circumstances – like when the professional relationship between them has ceased.
(e) When physicians see content posted by colleagues that appears unprofessional they have a responsibility to bring that content to the attention of the individual, so that he or she can remove it and/or take other appropriate actions.
Also when a patient comes to a physician, most likely the former is ill and thus vulnerable to whatever the doctor says or tells him/her to do.
When a person’s physical and mental faculties are thus compromised, any relationship entered into is usually not from a position of strength and equality but rather weakness and vulnerability.
Participating in social networking and other similar Internet opportunities can support physicians’ personal expression, enable individual physicians to have a professional presence online, foster collegiality and camaraderie within the profession, provide opportunity to widely disseminate public health messages and other health communication.
Social networks, blogs, and other forms of communication online also create new challenges to the patient-physician relationship.