The poor communicator

A patient arrives in the ED late at night with a sore and swollen groin, insisting that the pain is getting worse. The patient is seen by Dr P, who quickly suspects that the patient has a femoral hernia.

Dr P advises the patient to remove their pants and lay down on the examination table. Without warning or explanation, the doctor palpates the patient’s groin. The patient fends off the doctor’s abrupt physical contact and asks, “What do you think you are doing?”. The patient complains and reports the incident to the hospital, stating that inappropriate physical contact had occurred. The hospital advises Dr P that a complaint has been made against him.

After contacting MIPS

Assistance was provided to the doctor to draft a letter of apology to the patient and explanation to the hospital. It is important to explain the examination required and the process before initiating any physical contact with patients, especially contact with intimate areas.

Key messages

  • The Medical Board Code of Conduct states that when working with patients, effective communication includes informing patients of the nature of, and need for, all aspects of their clinical management including examinations, investigations and giving them adequate opportunity to question or refuse intervention and treatment.
  • Promptly notify MIPS of any adverse or unexpected outcome, complaint, claim or investigation related to your practice. Early action may stop the complaint going to APHRA, as it did in this case.
Disclaimer: The materials provided are for educational purposes only. Whilst all reasonable care has been taken in preparing these materials, including the accuracy of the information supplied, MIPS does not accept any liability whatsoever arising out of the use or reliance of the information provided.

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