The patient-doctor relationship is considered to be essential in modern medicine and forms one of the foundations of contemporary medical ethics. Universities teach medical students from the beginning, even before they set foot in hospitals, to maintain a professional rapport with patients, uphold patients’ dignity, and respect their privacy.
The relationship is beyond the concept of physician-patient privilege which is a legal covenant. Rather, the clinician and patient are in a partnership and both parties can openly discuss choices and ask questions in a trusting manner. This ideology stems from trying to maintain the most objective outlook by both parties – patient and clinician – in formulating and exercising optimal treatment plans. In fact, many health care professionals and patients claim that this trust and relationship are therapeutic in their own right. Unfortunately, we are increasingly seeing these boundaries crossed, which can compromise patient care and potentially lead to fatal consequences.
With increasing access to computers and published online medical articles, the internet has contributed to expanding patient knowledge of their own health, conditions, and treatment options. However, doctors are fearful of misleading information and being inundated by electronic communications for which they are not paid.