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Inappropriate treatment by sports therapist (12HDC01011)
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(12HDC01011, 16 January
Sports clinic ~ Sciatica ~ Documentation ~ Lack of draping ~
Inappropriate comments ~ Information ~ Consent ~ Respect ~ Rights
1(1), 1(2), 4(2), 6(2), 7(1)
A woman complained about an unregistered male sports therapist
who operated a sports clinic, from whom she sought treatment for a
At the first appointment, the woman disclosed to the therapist
some information about her past history of sexual abuse. Before
commencing treatment, the therapist did not explain what the
treatment would entail. He asked the woman to remove her trousers.
There was no separate area in the treatment room in which the woman
could change. The therapist examined the musculature on either side
of the woman's spine and provided deep pressure massage to her
affected leg. He also gave her dietary advice and showed her some
exercises. The woman was happy with the first treatment. The
therapist made sparse records of the appointment.
A week later the woman returned for a second appointment. Again,
the therapist did not discuss what the treatment would entail. The
woman presumed that the treatment would be the same as previously.
The woman removed her trousers and lay face down. The therapist
provided deep tissue massage to her leg and lower back, then up to
the back of her neck. He asked the woman to remove her vest jacket,
and then her skivvy as well. She did so, and was not wearing a bra.
The therapist continued to work on the woman's back while she was
lying face down. The therapist asked the woman to roll over on to
her back. She turned over and was lying on her back with her
breasts exposed while the therapist worked on her neck. He did not
offer to drape her at any stage, and she felt distressed and
The woman said that the therapist made inappropriate comments
during the second appointment, including asking whether she had a
boyfriend, and saying that she had lovely breasts and legs. The
therapist denied making inappropriate comments or "sexual
overtures". He acknowledged that he told her that she had
"shoulders like a rower", but could not recall exactly what he said
The therapist subsequently worked on the woman's gluteal
muscles. She said that her underwear was moved down to a point
where her genital area was exposed. The therapist denied this. He
took no notes for the second appointment.
The woman left the clinic feeling angry and confused. She did
not go to a third appointment, and sought assistance from family
and advocacy groups, made contemporaneous records of events, and
registered a complaint with HDC.
The therapist's failure to keep adequate records of his
consultations was a breach of Right 4(2). He did not provide the
woman with information about what the treatment would involve,
including that she might have to remove some clothing, which was
information that she needed to give informed consent. He therefore
breached Right 6(2) and Right 7(1).
By not draping the woman and leaving her in an exposed and
vulnerable position, the therapist caused her significant distress
and she felt violated. By not offering a private place to change,
and not offering to drape the woman, he failed to take adequate
steps to protect, maintain or respect her bodily privacy. He
therefore breached Right 1(2).
The therapist was found to have made inappropriate comments to
the woman during the second appointment. In doing so, he failed to
treat her with respect and therefore breached Right 1(1). He
was referred to the Director of Proceedings.
The Director filed a claim at the Human Rights Review Tribunal
which proceeded by agreement. The Human Rights Review Tribunal made
a declaration that the therapist had breached Rights 1(1), 1(2),
4(2), 6(2) and 7(1) of the Code.