This morning I got an email from a friend of mine who reads The Atlantic. In this month’s “What’s Your Problem?” section, an advice column by Jeffrey Goldberg, the following question and answer appear:
I recently met a woman I’d like to ask out. Here’s the complication: she’s one of my new doctors, and I met her while I was wearing a paper humiliation gown. She’s beautiful and intelligent and has a good sense of humor, and I learned that she’s single. The problem is, I couldn’t ask her out while wearing the gown. And whenever I call, the receptionists give me the run-around because I’m technically the patient of another doctor she was subbing for. What should I do?
M. K., Chicago, Ill.
Dear M. K.,
It is rare, outside of the pornography industry, for a woman to have the opportunity to inspect the naked body of someone she has not yet dated. So you must be in excellent shape (and no shrinking violet, so to speak), or you are delusional about your chances. In any case, you can take one of two approaches. One, learn her medical specialty, then fake an illness associated with that specialty and make an appointment to see her. Stay clothed and calm, and when she enters the room explain that this was the only way you could think of to see her. She’ll find this either utterly charming or fairly creepy. (She will find this especially creepy if she specializes in venereal diseases or in the condition known colloquially as “black hairy tongue.”) Alternatively, I suggest you write her a note, explaining, in both comic and earnest tones, your dilemma. Leave the note at the front desk, and make sure you drop the receptionist some cash or a box of chocolates to ensure delivery.
Now, I don’t read The Atlantic, so first I tried to figure out if this was a joke—you know, a not-very-serious question followed by tongue-in-cheek advice done for the sake of humor. I read the Q & A from this month and last month, and it seemed to me that the questions and answers were fairly legitimate.
So why the heck is Jeffrey Goldberg suggesting that it’s perfectly reasonable for a doctor and patient to date?? I think the Boundary Police need to go and slap this guy upside the head!
I don’t know what the Illinois state laws are regarding doctor-patient sexual relationships (the patient lives in Chicago), and after half an hour of trying unsuccessfully to figure it out, I’m throwing in the towel. But in several states, including California (where I reside), it is not only unprofessional and unethical but also ILLEGAL for a doctor to have sexual contact with a patient, as set forth in the state Business and Professions Code. Does it make a difference that she’s substituting for his regular doctor? I doubt it. It’s still a dual relationship, and I assume that she’d be risking her license if she went out with this guy. In all likelihood, they’d have to wait two years after terminating their doctor-patient relationship before going on their first date. (If someone knows a different answer to this question, please let me know.)
To me, the fact that Goldberg is encouraging the guy to pursue his doctor (and under false pretenses, no less!) is outrageous and disgusting. What is he thinking?? Moreover, why is the editor allowing this to be published?? Do these people not have a clue??
Apparently, we need to do some educatin’.
Got any ideas? Let me know.
If you’d like to offer Jeffrey Goldberg your own two cents, you can write to him care of his column.
If you’d like to read an interesting article about how Washington state regulations impact relationships with health care providers, check out this article by Eugene Volokh from the Wall Street Journal archives.