Page Section: Centre Content Column
Breach of sexual boundaries following a professional relationship (13HDC01357)
Download Breach of sexual boundaries following a professional relationship (13HDC01357) (PDF 71Kb)
(13HDC01357, 12 December
Registered nurse ~ District health board ~ Sexual
Relationship ~ Vulnerable consumer ~ exploitation ~ professional
boundaries ~ Rights 4(2), 2
A woman complained about the services provided to her by a
registered nurse (RN) at a district health board.
The woman had major depressive disorder and associated anxiety
and panic attacks. She also had a history of suicidal ideation,
which increased when stressful situations arose. More recently, she
had also developed alcohol related issues. The woman and the RN,
who was working in the Community Mental Health Service (MHS), had
intermittent social contact prior to the time the RN became
directly involved in the woman's clinical care.
A few months later the woman divulged to her MHS case manager
that she had had sexual intercourse with the RN. The RN had arrived
at the woman's residence in a DHB car. He pulled out a bottle of
wine, which he said was for her. The woman and the RN had sexual
intercourse, and soon after this the RN left. The RN returned later
that day and they had sexual intercourse again. The RN told the
woman that he would return on Monday with more wine and he stated
that he had always "fancied her".
It was held that by having sexual intercourse with the woman
while knowing she was a patient of the MHS team, and after he had
recently been involved in her care, the RN departed from the
Nursing Council of New Zealand Guidelines: Professional Boundaries.
He also failed to follow the DHB's Code of conduct. The RN failed
to comply with professional and ethical standards and, accordingly,
breached Right 4(2).
It was also held that, having recently been involved in her
care, the RN was aware that the woman was a vulnerable consumer
with several mental health issues including issues with alcohol,
yet he had sexual intercourse with her on two occasions, provided
her with alcohol, and offered to bring more alcohol. The RN's
conduct was sexually exploitative and, therefore, he breached Right
2. The RN was referred to the Director of Proceedings.The
Director filed a charge before the Health Practitioners
Disciplinary Tribunal. Professional Misconduct was made out and the
RN's nursing registration was cancelled.
The DHB was not held vicariously liable for the RN's breaches of