Being Hugged By Your Doctor: Invasion of Privacy vs Sign of Compassion?
According to the article in Fox News "Affectionate students are feeling the squeeze around the country as their displays of affection land them in trouble with school administrators." Even if the intent is to express, though the act of a hug, a social connection with their peers on the school grounds, this behavior may be considered sexual harassment. I find this news story has directed me to consider something some of us doctors do as part of being a humanistic human being beyond simply a doctor of medicine. Some of us actually hug our patients or patients' family members. We hug, not out of sexual excitement or anticipation, but out of a sense of the need to express directly compassion and support at the time of a patient crisis. Is hugging a patient professional? Does it exceed boundaries of professional behavior? Does it invade the patient's privacy? Should doctors first ask the patient "may I hug you?" and wait for permission? When you are upset and in distress and need the attention and compassion of someone who shows that he or she cares about your feeling, should you or would you accept a hug from your doctor even without them asking? ..Maurice.