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Should Doctors Hug Patients?

Posted by medliorator on November 12, 2007

Is hugging a patient professional? Does it exceed boundaries of professional behavior? Does it invade the patient’s privacy? Should doctors first ask the patient “may I hug you?” and wait for permission?

#1 Dinosaur said
Yes I hug,when I feel it’s part of the therapeutic interaction. My “protocol” is to say, “Do you need a hug?” in a neutral enough tone so that “yes” and “no” are equally acceptable answers, which I then honor.

It was a patient several years ago who taught me the “right” way to hug: no pounding (conveys hostility); if you must, a slight rubbing of the back, though no movement is best. Let the patient release first.

samuel Garcia said
I don’t mind getting a hug from my health care provider, and sometimes look forward to it. It usually makes me feel better. I think hugs… can add to or be just as therapeutic as to whatever primary intervention is being provided….

j1lane said
I feel the same way about hugging as I do about prayer…. If a patient wants to hold my hands and pray in the preop area, then that is fine with me. I don’t feel it would be appropriate for me to propose a prayer (or a hug). What if they say yes, but they wanted to say no? What if they say no, then worry about how that would affect their care?

I make a point of shaking hands when meeting a patient, and of touching their shoulder/etc when rounding. I have no problem hugging a patient, but I let them initiate it. It feels more respectful.

Being Hugged By Your Doctor: Invasion of Privacy vs Sign of Compassion? [Bioethics Discussion Blog]


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