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Commissioner Refers Massage Therapist To Director Of Proceedings 23HDC00529

A massage therapist has been referred to the Director of Proceedings by the Deputy Health and Disability Commissioner to assess if further legal action is required.

Dr Vanessa Caldwell found the massage therapist breached the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights for filming clients without their consent and other behaviours which did not meet accepted professional standards. These included breaches of professional boundaries and failures to uphold the consumers’ right to informed consent.

Dr Caldwell was severely critical of the man’s actions. "Making these recordings was a gross breach of trust and professional boundaries, and it is clear that this violation of privacy in the context of a consumer-provider relationship has had a significant and ongoing impact on the women involved."

For making these non-consensual recordings the massage therapist was found to have sexually exploited the consumers in breach of Right 2 of the Code. The breaches centre on complaints from five separate consumers. An earlier police investigation had resulted in five convictions against the therapist for making an intimate video recording of another person, and one conviction for intentionally attempting to make an intimate video recording of another person.

Dr Caldwell said "In my view it is in the public interest to also hold Mr A to account for the breach findings discussed in this report, which were not the subject of the criminal proceedings. These include the failure to provide information that a consumer would expect to receive to enable them to give informed consent (Right 6(1)), providing services - including massage of sensitive areas - without informed consent (Right 7(1)), and failure to provide services that complied with professional standards with respect to draping practices, communication standards and documentation standards (Right 4(2))."

Dr Caldwell noted that while the massage therapist was not a member of Massage New Zealand - a professional association for qualified massage therapists - or any other professional association, "I remain of the view that his clients could have expected that his care would be provided in accordance with [Massage NZ] Code of Ethics."

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