Practitioners having personal or sexual relationships with those close to a patient is considered to be a boundary violation

A recent Tribunal decision provides a reminder for practitioners that having personal and sexual relationships with those close to a patient is considered to be as much a boundary violation as having such relationships with patients.

In this matter it was alleged that a paediatric practitioner engaged in an inappropriate personal and/or sexual relationship with the mother of one of his patients. The Medical Board of Australia alleged that this conduct amounted to professional misconduct. The evidence at the hearing was that the practitioner treated the patient on numerous occasions both as an in-patient and via consultations at his rooms. In 2012 the practitioner sent a flirtatious text message to his patient’s mother and a period of sexting then occurred followed by two encounters of sexual physical conduct, but not sexual intercourse.

The relationship ended after the relationship came to the knowledge of the patient’s father, the mother’s husband, and the practitioner immediately stopped seeing the patient.

The Tribunal was satisfied that the conduct amounted to professional misconduct and that by engaging in the conduct the practitioner had contravened paragraph 8.2.2 of Good Medical Practice: A Code of Conduct for Doctors in Australia (2009) and part 3 of Sexual Boundaries: Guidelines for Doctors (2011). This provides that good medical practice involves never using your professional position to establish or pursue a sexual, exploitative or other inappropriate relationship with anybody under your care. This includes those close to the patient, such as their carer, guardian or spouse or the parent of a child patient.

The practitioner was reprimanded and a variety of mentoring and health conditions were imposed on his registration.

Post by Karen Kumar and Cameron Leaver 

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