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Breach of professional boundaries by physiotherapist (14HDC00338)
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Physiotherapist ~ Physiotherapy clinic ~ Boundaries ~
Professional standards ~ Right 4(2)
A woman in her twenties received physiotherapy treatment from a
physiotherapist for an injury obtained during an exercise class.
The woman attended nine physiotherapy appointments with the
physiotherapist. During that time, the physiotherapist text
messaged the woman and discussed various personal matters with
The physiotherapist's notes from the ninth visit record that the
woman was feeling much better, the injury had mostly settled, and
she was ready to recommence fitness training.
During that appointment, the physiotherapist and the woman
engaged in a conversation about movies, during which the
physiotherapist stated that he had a "massive DVD collection" and
offered the woman some movies. The physiotherapist text messaged
the woman asking whether she liked action movies and stating that
he would drop some off at her house. The physiotherapist arrived at
the woman's house and was showing her some DVDs when a pizza
delivery arrived. The woman invited the physiotherapist to stay for
The woman stated that during the course of the night she and the
physiotherapist had sexual intercourse more than once. The
following day, the physiotherapist contacted the woman repeatedly,
but she told him that she did not want an ongoing relationship.
It was accepted that a professional relationship existed between
the physiotherapist and the woman. It was held that the
physiotherapist did not maintain appropriate professional
boundaries by discussing his personal circumstances with the woman
during her physiotherapy appointments, by communicating with the
woman by mobile phone outside of the professional relationship, and
by engaging in sexual activity with the woman. The
physiotherapist's conduct was clearly unethical, and his actions
were a severe departure from accepted standards of professional
behaviour. Accordingly, the physiotherapist breached Right 4(2) and
was referred to the Director of Proceedings.
The Director of Proceedings filed a charge before the Health
Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal. Professional Misconduct
was made out and the physiotherapist was censured, required to pay
a fine of $5,000 and conditions were placed on his practising
The physiotherapy clinic did not breach the Code.