Former Vice President Joe Biden has been in some hot water recently because of his habit of hugging some of the people he meets. More generally, in today’s society, some of the casual social touching that once went on, particularly in the workplace, has become out of bounds.
So, is it OK for your doctor to give you a hug? I spotted that subject on Twitter the other day. Rhea Liang, a surgeon in Australia, asked a simple question:
Unsurprisingly, the question received many responses, both from doctors and patients:
Doctor: “‘Cure sometimes, treat often, comfort always.’ – if the situation calls for It”
Patient: “With consent, yes. In my experience touching in general is missing in medicine. I often feel alienated and dehumanized”
Doctor: “Absolutely not. There is a power relationship that makes it difficult for the patient to say no even if asked. It’s impossible for the Doctor to know for sure if it’s ok and they should be able to convey empathy without hugging.”
Patient: “YES. My former Dr (female) would reassure me or comfort me with just a gentle touch on my arm and it meant so much to me. Flip side, ex pain Dr (male) HAD to shake hands before and after and I HATED IT SO MUCH.”
Doctor: “I don’t initiate hugs with patients, but it’s not uncommon for them to hug me”
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