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Sexual relationship with a patient (10HDC01018)
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(10HDC01018, 26 November
Psychiatrist ~ Sexual relationship ~ Professional and
ethical standards ~ Exploitation ~ Standard of care ~ Rights 2,
4(1), 4(2), 4(4)
A complaint was made about an inappropriate relationship between
a psychiatrist and his patient, a 24-year-old woman. The woman had
a history of mental illness, including a fear of separation,
difficulty connecting with people her own age, and discomfort with
intimate relationships. The woman attended five consultations with
the psychiatrist over a period of two months.
A few days after the fifth consultation, the woman visited the
psychiatrist at his apartment and they had sexual relations.
Thereafter, the woman and the psychiatrist had an ongoing sexual
relationship. The psychiatrist did not seek peer support as the
personal relationship developed.
The psychiatrist eventually ended the therapeutic relationship
by way of a telephone conversation, two months after he and the
woman began having sexual relations. However, during that
conversation he told the woman that she could still call him if she
experienced side-effects from the medication she was taking.
The sexual relationship continued for around eight months. After
the relationship ended, the psychiatrist paid the woman
approximately $42,200. The psychiatrist induced the woman to deny
to HDC that an inappropriate relationship had existed and provide
inaccurate information to HDC.
By engaging in a sexual relationship with the woman, the
psychiatrist sexually exploited her and breached professional and
ethical standards. Accordingly, the psychiatrist breached Rights 2
The psychiatrist did not provide services to the woman with
reasonable care and skill. He formed an inappropriate relationship
with her during the therapeutic relationship, and discharged her by
way of a telephone conversation, but then told her that she could
call him if she had side effects from her medication after
discharge. These actions were inconsistent with the woman's need
for roles and relationships to be clearly defined. Accordingly, the
psychiatrist breached Right 4(1).
The psychiatrist's attempts to induce the woman to provide false
information to HDC were a breach of legal and professional
standards and, accordingly, a breach of Right 4(2).
The psychiatrist failed to provide services in a manner that
minimised the potential harm to the woman by failing to seek peer
advice following the fifth consultation with the woman.
Accordingly, the psychiatrist breached Right 4(4).
The psychiatrist was referred to the Director of Proceedings,
who brought a disciplinary proceeding. The Health Practitioners
Disciplinary Tribunal's decisions finding professional misconduct
established and cancelling the doctor's registration are available