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No hugs allowed, unless it’s a gorilla



Imagine you are a family doctor, you have known the patient in front of you for as long as you can remember. Sadly, you have had to tell them they have a life threatening illness. They become very distressed. Would you try and comfort them with a hug, or would you give them a hand shake? Which action would be the more compassionate?

A doctors’ indemnity insurance organisation, the MDU, has warned its members to ‘err on the side of caution’ when offering comfort to a patient. If they hug someone in distress, they need to document it in case the patient later makes a complaint. The MDU warned that a hug could even end up with the doctor facing a General Medical Council investigation if the patient misconstrued the doctor’s intention.

Meanwhile a government report, Foster Care in England, criticized the restrictions placed on foster carers. Carers had been advised against showing physical affection to the children they were looking after. The Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield made the following comment in the foreword of the report.

“Many older foster children are also scathing about their carers’ inability to show them affection or to give them a hug. Younger foster children often feel worried and confused about the lack of physical affection they are shown. I’m pleased that this report is recommending changes in this area. Any suggestion that all physical affection is to be avoided risks leaving children feeling unwanted, unloved and insecure.”

Image copyright Jo-Anne McArthur
Copyright Jo-Anne McArthur,winner of The People’s Choice award in the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition

All is not lost though. One kind of hug is still allowed, as revealed in this photograph, winner of The People’s Choice award in the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.