Physicians have become accustomed to the curiosity and dependency of patients in the practice of medicine. Yet they need autonomy and privacy to move freely in their personal lives. They wince under the glare of publicity and often feel grateful to medical dramas on television and in film for helping to slake that curiosity.
But some patients want more. Physicians intuit that those pressing for nonmedical relationships with their caregivers and those seeking information about them are potentially clinging, possibly personality disordered, or perhaps even threatening.2 Not uncommonly, casual conversations in physicians' dining rooms turn to one or another colleague who is being stalked by a patient and must take the necessary steps to protect home and family. Many physicians are wary of gifts that are too personal and social invitations that seem too seductive. The delicate balance between therapeutic self-disclosure and boundary violations is precarious3 and is an increasingly important part of medical education.
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