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Physiotherapy assessment, consent and documentation (06HDC16422)
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(06HDC16422, 29 February 2008)
Physiotherapist ~ Management of
ankle injury ~ Inappropriate examination ~ Rights 2, 4(2), 6(2),
A student attending a
physiotherapist at a clinic connected to a university physiotherapy
school complained that during the assessment the physiotherapist
examined her unnecessarily and inappropriately.
The woman attended the appointment
having rolled her ankle when she slipped on wet grass. The
physiotherapist examined her lumber and thoracic region, and during
this examination put his hand into her bra and cupped her breast.
The physiotherapist acknowledged assessing her thoracic and lumber
regions but denied sexual impropriety. He did not document
this examination or acknowledge that he should have done so.
It was held that the physiotherapist
breached Rights 2 and 4(2) by failing to comply with professional
and ethical standards, and sexually exploited the consumer.
He also breached Rights 6(2) and 7 for failing to provide a
satisfactory explanation for the examination or gain her consent to
perform the examinations.
It was also held that the university
took reasonable steps to prevent the acts and omissions in
question, and that the acts took place without the express or
implied authority of the university. The university took prompt and
appropriate steps in response to the complaint, and appropriate
support was provided to the woman. The university was not
vicariously liable for the physiotherapist's breaches of the
The matter was referred to the
Director of Proceedings. On 8 July 2008 the Health Practitioners
Disciplinary Tribunal upheld a charge of professional misconduct
against the physiotherapist. Because he was not currently
registered in New Zealand, the Tribunal was not able to cancel or
suspend his registration. Should he apply for registration in New
Zealand, he must at his own cost, undertake a psychological
assessment to assess what risk, if any, he poses to public safety,
and complete training in ethics and professional boundaries,
including personal and patient safety to the satisfaction of the
Physiotherapy Board of New Zealand.
In the event that the physiotherapist meets those conditions and
re-registers, he is to undertake a mentoring programme. The
Tribunal recommended that the programme should include education as
to professional boundaries, personal safety and patient
The physiotherapist was censured and fined $2,000.
Link to Health Practitioners
Disciplinary Tribunal decision: