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Sexual Relationship Between Chiropractor And Patient

Deputy Health and Disability Commissioner Rose Wall today released a report finding a chiropractor in breach of the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights (the Code) for entering into a sexual relationship with a female patient.

The woman sought treatment from the chiropractor. A sexual relationship then developed between them, spanning two and a half years. During this time, the chiropractor continued to provide chiropractic services to the woman and members of her family, and did not seek advice from either his colleagues or his professional body about his professional and ethical obligations.

The Chiropractic Board Code of Ethics states that chiropractors have a responsibility to be familiar with the Board’s Code and comply with its standards. It states that a chiropractor cannot have a sexual relationship with a patient unless that patient is the chiropractor’s spouse or partner.

Deputy Commissioner Rose Wall considered that by entering into and continuing a sexual relationship with the woman while providing her with chiropractic treatment, the chiropractor failed to maintain appropriate professional boundaries and comply with the ethical standards set out in the Chiropractic Board Code of Ethics. Accordingly, she found that the chiropractor breached the Code.

"The maintenance of professional boundaries is an integral part of the provision of health services, and its importance in the provider-consumer relationship cannot be emphasised strongly enough," said Ms Wall. "I consider that [the chiropractor’s] conduct, specifically his entering into a sexual relationship with his patient, did not comply with his professional and ethical obligations and crossed professional boundaries and ethical standards."

The Deputy Commissioner recommended that the chiropractor establish a six-month mentoring and continuing education plan with the New Zealand Chiropractic Board, in relation to its Code of Ethics and with an emphasis on professional boundaries. She also recommended that the New Zealand Chiropractic Board consider this complaint and whether further action is warranted.

The chiropractor is to be referred to the Director of Proceedings.

The full report for case 19HDC01074 is available on the HDC website.

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