BMA guidance

Doctor patient relationship

This toolkit provides guidance on understanding the doctor-patient relationship and the type of dilemmas that can arise

Location: UK
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Wednesday 31 January 2024
Topics: Ethics
Justice scales article illustration

What you'll get from this toolkit

  • An understanding of key factors to consider when facing common dilemmas that arise in the doctor-patient relationship
  • Guidance on good practice and ethical standards
  • Legal principles relating to the doctor-patient relationship
  • Links to other guidance and resources from the BMA and other bodies including the General Medical Council, health departments and royal colleges.

You may also be interested to see our core ethics guidance


How to use this guide

The purpose of this toolkit is not to provide definitive answers for every situation but to identify the key factors that need to be considered when decisions are made; to summarise the relevant legal considerations; and to signpost other key professional guidance. It is not a set of rules or instructions, or a substitute for careful reflection and discussion with colleagues.

  • The doctor-patient relationship
  • Patient autonomy and choice
  • Communication and honesty
  • Maintaining professional boundaries
  • Trust and mutual respect
  • Conscientious objection and expressing personal belief
  • Care at a distance
  • Doctors’ responsibilities
  • Patients’ responsibilities
  • Breakdown of the doctor-patient relationship
  • Non-typical relationships and dual obligations