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Recognizing that patients receive the best care when they work in partnership with doctors, the UK General Medical Council issued guidance for patients "What to expect from your doctor" in April 2013.The default medical practice for showing respect to patients and their families is for the doctor to be truthful in informing the patient of their health and to be direct in asking for the patient's consent before giving treatment.Michael Balint's "The Doctor, His Patient and the Illness" (1957) outlined several case histories in detail and became a seminal text.and other national Balint societies in other countries.The quality of the patient–physician relationship is important to both parties.The doctor and patient's values and perspectives about disease, life, and time available play a role in building up this relationship.This means the doctor does not recommend what the patient should do, rather the patient's autonomy is respected and they choose what medical treatment they want to have done.

In these circumstances and also in cases where there is genuine divergence of medical opinions, a second opinion from another physician may be sought or the patient may choose to go to another physician that they trust more.

The guidance, issued yesterday, tells doctors they still cannot initiate 'sexual' or 'improper' relationships with current patients, but says they can date former patients, as long as they give "careful consideration" to certain factors.

The updated guidelines outlined in the doctors' handbook Good Medical Practice, and which come into force next month, state: "If you are considering whether to pursue a personal relationship with a former patient, you must use your professional judgment.

Until now, the General Medical Council has discouraged doctors from having relationships with former patients deemed vulnerable at the time they were being treated, and it continues to ban them with current patients.

The watchdog has now issued new guidelines clarifying the risks doctors need to consider before embarking on a romance with a former patient, such as taking into account that some patients can be more vulnerable than others.

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