Boundaries can protect the best in us from the worst
- By: Julian Sheather
Doctors treat human beings, but there are times when it can seem a little less accepted that doctors are human beings—with human needs and weaknesses, human passions and frailties.
Professionalism, that complex set of virtues and dispositions, of skills and attributes that form the core of good medical practice, is nonetheless said to depend upon the integrity of boundaries, and at times those boundaries demand that doctors set to one side their ordinary human feelings or interests.
Why then are boundaries important? Given that we are living in such a democratic age, given the levelling of social distinctions and the trumpeting of the respect owed to the autonomous choices of adults, why should they continue to matter?
To begin with, consider the question of intimate relationships between doctors and patients. The General Medical Council, in its 2006 guidance Maintaining Boundaries, draws a number of distinctions regarding intimate relationships.1 With current