Page Section: Centre Content Column
Inappropriate sexual relationship with a client (06HDC07873)
Download Inappropriate sexual relationship with a client (06HDC07873) (PDF 140Kb)
(06HDC07873, 6 December 2006)
Natural therapies practitioner ~
Standard of care ~ Professional standards ~ Sexual exploitation ~
Rights 2, 4(2), (3)
A woman attended a natural therapies practitioner for therapy in
relation to past trauma. A sexual relationship concurrent with a
professional relationship began, and lasted around eight months.
During the time that a sexual relationship was in place, the
woman's husband saw the natural therapies practitioner
professionally on four occasions. The husband eventually
discontinued the professional relationship.
It was held that the natural therapies practitioner was a health
care provider under section 3(k) of the Health and Disability
Commissioner Act, since he held himself out as providing health
services to the public and advertised "services to promote health".
He sexually exploited the woman, and failed to provide her with a
standard of care consistent with her needs, and therefore breached
Rights 2 and 4(3). It was also held that the practitioner's
intimate relationship with the woman created an inherent conflict
of interest in his professional relationship with her husband. By
failing to terminate the professional relationship with the
husband, the practitioner breached Right 4(2).
The matter was referred to the Director of Proceedings, who
issued proceedings before the Human Rights Review Tribunal. On 21
December 2007 the Tribunal made a declaration that the natural
therapies practitioner had breached Rights 2, 4(2), and 4(4).
The natural therapies practitioner was ordered to pay
compensatory damages of $15,000 to the woman and $5,000 to her
husband, and exemplary damages of $10,000 to the woman and $8,000
to her husband.
On 9 May 2008 the Tribunal ordered the natural therapies
practitioner to pay $22,500 costs, and imposed an order under s
54(1)(b) of the Health and Disability Commissioner Act, restraining
him from repeating the conduct that led to the breaches of the
Code. His application for name suppression was declined.
Link to Human Rights Review Tribunal