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Information for people contemplating
a career in emergency medicine and
other medical specialties

By Kevin Pezzi, MD


The "unspoken rules" of doctor-patient relationships

Q: I found your site because I was looking for info about patients dating their doctors. As a teacher, I don't think it would be right for me to date a parent of one of my current students and I was curious if the same held true for docs. I also wonder if there is some crazy daddy-issue-syndrome associated with digging one's doctor. I have dug a couple of mine. I love a smart man!

So what are the "unspoken rules" of doctor-patient relationships? Would I have to dump him as a doctor to get him to ask me out, or what? ;-)


No doctor would get a date with a patient this way!

Answer by , MD: Hi Aubrey,

That depends on where you live (see my page about The Lonely Doctor). In general, the "unspoken rules" of doctor/patient relationships stipulate that the pursuit of romance should not detract from the patient's care or make him/her feel coerced into dating the doctor.

Regarding whether there is “some crazy daddy-issue-syndrome associated with digging one's doctor.” Women are often drawn to powerful men, and doctors do have more power than average people. However, the power of doctors to prescribe medicine, order tests, and perform surgery really gives us negligible power over patients. A doctor who is doing his job does his utmost to help every patient, thus giving him no individual discretion to penalize a patient who won't (for example) sleep with him.

As you suggested, it is natural to be drawn to people who are smart and dedicated enough to survive the brutal medical education process in the United States. I think the admiration for doctors is based less on power than on an appreciation of their brainpower and stick-to-itiveness.

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