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Information provided by massage therapist (13HDC01307)

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(13HDC01307, 26 May 2015)

Massage therapist ~ Tui Na ~ Information ~ Informed consent ~ Record-keeping ~ Rights 6(2), 7(1)

A woman had a 90-minute Tui Na massage with a massage therapist. The woman had purchased an online promotional voucher for the treatment. Tui Na massage is a form of Chinese medical massage using acupressure (focussed on acupuncture points). The treatment often uses very deep pressure. The voucher did not describe Tui Na in any detail. The woman was under the impression that the massage would be a relaxation treatment.

A sign outside the therapist's treatment room displayed the clinic's name and "free ACC" on it. The woman told HDC that she "felt safe that they were accredited by ACC". However, the therapist was renting a room in the clinic, and ACC accreditation did not extend to the therapist.

The therapist began the treatment without taking a client history or explaining or discussing with the woman what to expect from the treatment. The woman found the treatment to be very forceful and painful. The treatment involved the therapist at one point climbing onto the massage table on all fours and slowly lowering her knees onto the larger muscles of the woman's back. The therapist submitted that her hands and feet were always supporting her own weight. The therapist provided a copy of brief handwritten notes relating to the treatment.

After the treatment, the woman had a very bad night's sleep. She had a sore back, neck, and shoulders in the days afterwards. She said she had none of these symptoms prior to the treatment. She also had a headache which continued for a few days. The woman telephoned ACC and discovered the therapist was not accredited with it.

Given the nature of the treatment, the therapist should have clearly explained and communicated to the woman, a new client, that Tui Na massage was a deep tissue massage and could potentially be uncomfortable and painful for her. That is information that a reasonable consumer would need to receive to give informed consent. The absence of information given to the woman about what the treatment would entail meant that she did not have the information she required in order to give informed consent. Therefore, the therapist breached Right 6(2).

Except in limited circumstances, Right 7 of the Code provides that services may be provided to a consumer only if that consumer makes an informed choice and gives informed consent. Due to the lack of information provided to the woman, she was unable to make an informed choice or give informed consent. It follows, therefore, that the therapist also breached Right 7(1).

Adverse comment was made about the therapist's use of her knees as a technique to apply pressure, as it is not usual practice for a Tui Na massage therapist. Adverse comment was also made that the therapist should have kept a more detailed record of the care she provided. 

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