The Health and Disability Commissioner has recommended further mentoring for a doctor after she entered a relationship with a patient for whose family she was also the medical practitioner.

The patient, his wife, and their children were registered patients with the doctor. The husband saw the doctor a few times for prescriptions. When the doctor made a Facebook account, the husband added the doctor as a friend.

After the doctor separated from her partner, she and the husband began spending time together.

The doctor moved the husband under another doctor’s care as she began to develop feelings for him. After a period of time, the husband told his wife that he was having an affair with their doctor, and that he would move in with her in the near future.

This caused the wife and the children significant psychological stress and the need for counselling.

The Commissioner held that the doctor breached the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers' Rights by having an unprofessional relationship with the patient when she was his doctor, and by having a relationship with the husband at the same time as being the doctor responsible for the care of his wife and children.

The Commissioner recommended the doctor be mentored by a senior colleague for a year, the senior colleague report to the Medical Council that the doctor is maintaining professional boundaries, and to provide an apology to the wife and children.

Due to the significant power imbalance between doctors and patients, any relationships are taken very seriously and may result in serious disciplinary actions.

If there are concerns about a medical practitioner maintaining professional boundaries, it is wise to speak with a professional experienced in the area.

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Alan Knowsley
Medical Lawyer