Doctors warned over assaults

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

EVEN IN the face of extreme provocation, doctors and dentists are warned today that they must never slap their patients.

While reports of patients attacking doctors have been increasing - some doctors take large dogs on night calls - assaults on patients by doctors are less common.

Three cases in the Journal of the Medical Defence Union show how momentary loss of temper resulted in professionals answering charges of assault.

A GP was found in breach of his terms of service after a social worker reported him for slapping a patient across the cheek. The woman had torn up forms for her admittance to a psychiatric hospital and then threw a cup of tea over the GP.

The Journal says: 'As the tea was hot he stood up and quickly slapped her across the right cheek with the back of his hand. She stumbled and fell on the floor. The social worker protested.'

The other two cases involved dentists. In the first a dentist slapped a six-year-old girl out of frustration. In earlier visits she had refused to open her mouth. He apologised to the girl's parents who were not in the surgery at the time but he was reported to the police and was cautioned.

In the second a dentist faced a damages claim for assault and battery from parents after he slapped their two-year-old son who bit his finger. Again there had been earlier problems in treating the child. This time the parents witnessed the assault.

The Journal says: 'To strike a patient not only causes the the clinician/patient relationship to break down, perhaps irretrievably, but it could also lead to disciplinary action and possibly a court appearance.'