Q1) Answer: C
The MDU has seen an increase in the number of queries regarding social media, as it has the potential to generate plenty of medico-legal issues. The GMC has issued specific guidance on this topic which covers various aspects of doctors using social media, including that of maintaining boundaries.
As interacting with patients via social media can blur the boundaries between the private and the professional, it's safest to explain, in line with the GMC guidance, that you're unable to mix your social and professional relationships.
Q2) Answer: C
Maintaining an appropriate professional boundary between doctors and their patients is important in preserving trust in the profession. Engaging in a close emotional or sexual relationship with a patient may leave the doctor open to accusations that they have taken advantage of their position, or worse still, a vulnerable patient.
The GMC offers clear guidance on this point in paragraph 53 of 'Good medical practice' (2013): 'You must not use your professional position to pursue a sexual or improper emotional relationship with a patient or someone close to them.'
Q3) Answer: B
Gifts may be tempting and make you feel valued, but it's important to consider the repercussions of accepting them. While it's not absolutely forbidden, the GMC is clear that doctors must not accept gifts from patients, or colleagues, that may affect or be seen to affect the way that person is treated.
In this context, £100 is not an insignificant amount of money. Accepting it could leave a student or doctor open to criticism that they've taken advantage of a patient.
The value of this gift is also significant. Any medical students who go on to become GPs will need to be aware that under the General Medical Services contract, GPs are required to keep a register of gifts valued at £100 or more.
Q4) Answer: A
Doctors should generally avoid treating themselves or those close to them. Paragraph 16g of 'Good medical practice' (2013) is explicit that you must, 'wherever possible, avoid providing medical care to yourself or anyone with whom you have a close personal relationship.'
You should also be aware that as a doctor there is no such thing as a 'quick look'. Regardless of the context, you should apply the same standards when exercising your clinical skills and knowledge to any clinical interaction. Similarly, your ethical duties in relation to consent, confidentiality and record keeping remain unchanged.
Q5) Answer: B
Doctors and medical students get ill like everyone else. But there is an expectation that they will act professionally, and that includes prioritising patient safety. Taking the appropriate amount of time off is better for everyone involved, rather than turning up to work and potentially triggering an outbreak of gastroenteritis amongst your colleagues and patients.
The GMC are clear that you must not rely on your own assessment of the risk you pose to patients. Seek guidance from a suitably qualified colleague and stick to the measures put in place to protect patients.
Dr Ellie Mein
MB ChB MRCOphth GDL LLM
Ellie joined the MDU as a medico-legal adviser in 2013. Prior to this she worked as an ophthalmologist before completing her Graduate Diploma in Law in Birmingham.
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