Dignity 4 Patients believes that one of our most important challenges is to educate the public so that the opportunities for patient abuse are minimised. Knowing your rights and knowing what is appropriate in a medical setting is the first step in preventing you or your loved ones from experiencing sexual abuse or violation of boundaries.
The role of the media in educating patients is of vital importance. Can you help is campaign to educate the public about their rights as patients? This is what we believe patients and their families need to know:
• As a patient, you do not have to endure unwanted physical or sexual advances.
• Under the Irish Constitution the citizen has a right to “bodily integrity”. This means that, as a patient, the citizen has a right not to have their body or person interfered with and that the State is not permitted to do anything to harm the life or health of the patient.
• If a medic is asking a patient personal questions that do not relate to directly to the illness or injury the patient is not obliged to answer. The patient is entitled to ask why a medic is asking for that information.
• If a medic is making personal comments about a patient or their body (even if they are complimentary) the patient has the right to ask them not to speak to them like that.
• If a medic is examining a patient in a way that feels inappropriate the patient has the right to speak up.
• If a patient is asked to remove clothing that does not relate to the area where the illness or injury is, they should ask why before doing so. The medic should not watch the patient undress.
• If a child or adolescent is being examined, the parent or guardian has the right to be present and should not be excluded by a medic from the examination (unless on request by the child).
• When accompanying an elderly patient to a medical or therapeutic setting for treatment or an examination, you can be present and should the person wish to have you present for support.
A breach of sexual boundaries between professional and patient is any form of words, behaviour or actions designed or intended to arouse or gratify sexual desires. A patient must feel confident and safe so that they can be treated effectively and participate effectively in their care. Healthcare professionals have a duty to ensure the safety and well-being of their patients.
The Medical Council of New Zealand has published this guide for patients which patients and members of the media may find useful:
• The importance of clear sexual boundaries in the doctor-patient relationship : a guide for patients.