The General Medical Council's (GMC) consulation on whether it should regulate how a doctor behaves outside working hours has sparked fears among GPs
The GMC is currently polling the public through social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter on whether it should "regulate doctors' lives outside medicine".
The informal discussions come a month before a formal review of the GMC's 'Good Medical Practice' guidelines.
While the regulator already has the ability to discipline a doctor if behaviour out of hours affected their work or brought the profession into disrepute, the consultation could see the GMC's powers significantly enhanced.
Such regulations would look to clamp down healthcare professionals "supporting racist organisations", organisations "that promote conflict", or advocated "religious fundamentalism".
The GMC told MiP the discussions have thrown up split opinions among healthcare workers and patients.
While some respondents have said they would be "unhappy" if they found a doctor held racist or homophobic views, others say GPs and consultants are "only human", and should not be expected to "lead blameless lives".
"As long as it doesn't affect their treatment of me as a patient, I have no interest in what doctor's get up to in their private life," said one respondent to a GMC video poll.
A GMC spokesperson told MiP it is "too early to guess" what the outcome of the informal consultation will be but claimed a Big Brother-type monitoring is not an intended result.
The GMC is expected to launch a full consultation on a review of its Good Medical Practice document in October.