Why would you want to use a chaperone in some patient consultations? Doesn’t that mean there is a deficiency of trust in the doctor-patient relationship? Is this defensive medicine gone too far?

Not always.

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Why chaperones?
Using a chaperone in some situations, such as intimate examinations, can make both doctor and patient feel more comfortable with the more confronting aspects of clinical practice. It is something which has been an accepted part of clinical practice for many years. 

The chaperone review…
MIGA made submissions to an independent review arranged by the Medical Board of Australia into the use of chaperones in ‘protective’ situations. This is where a regulator imposes chaperone conditions on a practitioner where there has been a complaint about their conduct requiring investigation, but where the investigation is ongoing. The complaint may involve allegations of sexual misconduct.

MIGA appreciates the devastating effects a complaint of inappropriate conduct can have on a doctor, particularly their well-being and reputation.

The review examines the effectiveness of chaperone conditions to protect patients, their appropriateness given the importance of trust and informed consent in the therapeutic relationship, the circumstances where chaperone conditions are inappropriate, and the adequacy of disclosure and monitoring regimes.

MIGA’s response
A principal focus of MIGA’s submission is that the use of chaperones more generally in clinical practice should not be seen as a sign of concern about a practitioner, but rather an accepted part of good practice.

MIGA has also emphasised:

  • The need to preserve the use of protective chaperone conditions in appropriate situations
  • There will be situations where protective chaperone conditions are inappropriate, depending on the nature and extent of the allegations against the doctor
  • The effectiveness of protective chaperone conditions depends on the quality of regulator processes, particularly fair and thorough assessment, use of suitable chaperone training and careful monitoring
  • How patients are informed of protective chaperone conditions needs to be examined, appropriately balancing public protection, privacy and fairness.

The future…
MIGA looks forward to further engagement with the review and will let our members know how things progress.

Other resources

  1. Chaperone review

    Access more information about the Medical Board of Australia’s Chaperone review

  2. Managing Risk with Chaperones

    Check out the MIGA factsheet

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