Ethical Aspects of Sexual Medicine


Gorm Wagner, MD, PhD, MFI, Panum Inst., 2200 Copenhagen N, Denmark. Tel: 45-33383802; Fax: 45-39651090; E-mail:


Summary of Committee. For the complete report please refer to Sexual Medicine: Sexual Dysfunctions in Men and Women, edited by T.F. Lue, R. Basson, R. Rosen, F. Giuliano, S. Khoury, F. Montorsi, Health Publications, Paris, 2004.


Introduction.  Ethics describe the ways in which moral life is understood. Morality comprises norms for human conduct, and addresses what is right and what is wrong.

Aim.  To provide a consensus-based summary of the ethical aspects of sexual medicine.

Methods.  Over 200 multidisciplinary specialists from 60 countries were divided into 17 consultation committees as part of a process organized by an international consultation on sexual medicine held in Paris, June 28–July 1, 2003 in close alliance with several sexual medicine organizations. Embarking on a study on ethics in sexual medicine, 10 experts from eight countries assembled over a two-year period to develop this consensus-based summary.

Main Outcome Measure.  Although ethics are recognized as subjective, expert opinion was based on grading of evidence-based medical literature, in addition to cultural and ethical considerations. The process also involved extensive internal committee discussion, public presentation, and debate.

Results.  Contemporary medical practitioners provide health care for patients from many different cultures from all around the world. Thus, it is recommended that all health professionals working in sexual medicine should above all be able to demonstrate respect, understanding, and tolerance toward the differing moral worldviews of their patients and colleagues, and the societies they represent. In sexual medicine, health professionals have an obligation to respect the autonomy of any individual that they treat, regardless of that individual's religious or socio-cultural tradition, race, gender, or sexual orientation. Sexual rights are a necessary condition for sexual health. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination, and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected, and fulfilled.

Conclusions.  Additional discussion and research on ethics in sexual medicine is needed.