6/09 My gynecologist called me “sweetie…”

“My recent appointment with my male GYN left me feeling weird…he was perfectly pleasant but kept calling me “sweetie”…later he called with some urinary tract infection results, called me sweetie again and told me – if i have any questions be sure to call “daddy” clearly meaning himself…”

Strictly speaking this could be considered sexual harrassment, or at least sexist and demeaning – and definitely unprofessional, probably unethical. Most physicians respect a boundary and privacy line, and might even ask if they should call you by your first name, let alone “sweetie”…can you imagine a doctor asking “Do you mind if i call you sweetie?” Or, can you imagine a female doctor saying “If you have any questions, you call big mamma!”?

It is best to stick up for yourself and say something. I can imagine what some women I know would say – “I am NOT your sweetie!” and im pretty sure that would be the end of that! Other approaches could include correcting the doctor by saying – my name is Ms. Andrews (made up name), or your first name if you want him to use it. You could be somewhat satirical and say – “Why would I call my father if I have questions about this infection?” feigning innocence…or simply be matter of fact (once you ‘ve gathered your wits in the unexpected necessity to do so), and say “Doctor so and so, I am not comfortable with the way you address me, please call me Susan/Ms. Andrews” (if that’s your name!)…or whatever you find works for you.

I think I would be taken off guard, as it sounds like Ms. Andrews was, if a doctor  – especially a gynecologist – addressed me as “sweetie” and I might wonder about his intentions – and even my safety. I knew a girl when I was 16, a classmate, who allowed her gynecologist to have sex with her in the office on the exam table. Obviously he was breaking the law in more than one way, the point is not everyone has the same level of integrity, sense of ethics or respect, training, or humility.

Im sure it’s much less likely that Ms. Andrews’ doctor would attempt to have sex with her, than he is to simply be a sexist and somewhat arrogant physician – but it does happen and no one should or needs to be addressed in a manner less than respectful and professional by any physician or therapist. Laws and powerful ethical guidelines do exist – to protect YOU.

You don’t have to file a lawsuit to make a call and report an uncomfortable incident, if you feel really violated. Probably that is unwarranted in Ms. Andrews case – the doctor probably felt “fatherly,” however even this is not acceptable as it assumes Ms. Andrews needs a father figure, and that this doctor should be one. Ms. Andrews – and any of you – are adults and the doctor works for YOU. 

My advice to Ms. Andrews – if you don’t want to confront the doctor about how he addresses you, and/or if you are not comfortable with him because he felt he could violate such boundaries, change doctors! Maybe try seeing a woman this time.

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4 thoughts on “6/09 My gynecologist called me “sweetie…”

  1. It may make a difference how the physician says it, and if in other ways keeps professional boundaries and conversation. At least some women seem to find it disconcerting, Im glad that you dont!

    • True, it makes a difference how they say it. He just told me you need to have a surgery sweetie (on the phone too), then he kept his warm tone calling me sweetie a few more times. I felt he was trying to be supportive and reassuring while he was understanding that I might be panicking.

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