The Health & Disability Commissioner has found that a physiotherapist breached the Code of Patient Rights by having a relationship with a patient.

The patient did not complain about the relationship and both the patient and the physiotherapist maintain that a romantic relationship did not exist until after the patient had stopped seeing the physiotherapist.  However, the Health & Disability Commissioner concluded that the patient was a vulnerable patient and there was an imbalance of power between the patient and the physiotherapist which made any non-therapeutic relationship a breach of ethics.

A year after the patient relationship ended the former patient and physiotherapist are still in a relationship.

The Health & Disability Commissioner recommended that the physiotherapist have a six month mentoring and continuing education plan with the Physiotherapy Board with an emphasis on professional boundaries.  The H&DC also recommended the physiotherapist conduct should be reviewed and whether he should be put under supervision for a period.

The patient maintained throughout that she was under no pressure from the physiotherapist to enter into any relationship and that she encouraged the relationship and made the advances to the physiotherapist.

Alan Knowsley

Medical Lawyer