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Can a doctor lose their license for dating a patient in Colorado?

On Behalf of | May 23, 2023 | Professional Disciplinary Defense

The ethical boundaries in the patient-doctor relationship are clear: maintain professional conduct at all times. However, what happens when those boundaries blur into personal territory, such as dating a patient? Can a doctor in Colorado lose their license for engaging in a romantic relationship with a patient?

This article will explore the potential consequences of a doctor dating a patient in Colorado, including the risk of losing a medical license.

The Colorado Medical Practice Act

The Colorado Medical Practice Act governs the practice of medicine. Under this act, unprofessional conduct can result in disciplinary action, including the suspension or revocation of a medical license. The act lists numerous examples of unprofessional conduct, but it does not explicitly mention dating or having a sexual relationship with a patient.

Professional boundaries and ethical guidelines

Despite the absence of explicit language in the Colorado Medical Practice Act, dating a patient can violate professional boundaries. The American Medical Association’s Code of Medical Ethics clearly states that sexual relationships between doctors and patients are unethical. Doctors have a duty to maintain professional conduct and avoid exploiting the trust and dependency of patients.

Potential consequences

If a doctor in Colorado dates a patient, and someone files a complaint, the Colorado Medical Board will investigate. The Board could determine that the doctor’s conduct constitutes a violation of the professional standards outlined in the Colorado Medical Practice Act. The penalties can range from fines to probation, suspension or even revocation of the doctor’s medical license.

A matter of timing

The timing of the relationship may also be a factor. A romantic relationship that begins after the termination of the patient-doctor relationship looks different than one that starts during active treatment. However, even in these cases, the ethical implications can be complex.

Although the Colorado Medical Practice Act does not explicitly list dating a patient as a form of unprofessional conduct, the ethical guidelines of the medical profession clearly discourage such relationships. Any doctor considering a personal relationship with a patient should carefully consider the ethical implications and potential consequences.