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Sexual exploitation by general practitioner (11HDC00237)
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(11HDC00237, 26 March
General practitioner ~ Sexual exploitation ~ Sexual
relationship ~ Professional boundaries ~ Text messages ~
Prescribing ~ Record-keeping ~ Rights 2, 4(1), 4(2)
A woman consulted her general practitioner (GP) on more than 20
occasions over a four year period. Some of the woman's
consultations with her GP throughout this period were for issues of
a sensitive nature.
The woman alleged that she and the doctor had a sexual
relationship that lasted almost one year, and the sexual
relationship took place while she was a patient of the GP. During
the last three months of the relationship, the GP persistently
texted the woman on two different cell phone numbers. The content
of some of those text messages was sexually explicit.
Professional and ethical standards are clear: doctors must not
engage in relationships of a sexual nature with their patients.
This is a non-negotiable professional and ethical standard. The
Medical Council of New Zealand has a zero-tolerance position on
doctors who breach sexual boundaries. A doctor breaches sexual
boundaries not only through physical behaviour, but also through
any behaviour, including discussions, that has as its purpose some
form of sexual gratification, or that might reasonably be
interpreted as having that purpose.
The sexual content of the text messages the GP sent to the woman
could reasonably be interpreted as having, as their purpose, some
form of sexual gratification. In addition, the text messages
supported the woman's accounts of the sexual relationship she had
with the GP. Concern was also expressed about the frequency with
which the GP was contacting her.
It was the GP's responsibility as a registered medical
practitioner to maintain professional boundaries and ethical
standards. He did not do so, and therefore breached Right 4(2) of
the Code. It was also held that the GP sexually exploited the
woman, and breached Right 2.
Furthermore, on one occasion the woman experienced an
anaphylactic reaction to codeine. Despite the severity of her
reaction, advice from a hospital, and the woman's request, the GP
did not arrange a medical alert bracelet for her. The GP prescribed
codeine for the woman over the telephone eight months later, for
the treatment of a respiratory infection. It was held that the GP
failed to exercise reasonable care in prescribing codeine and
antibiotics to the woman on the second occasion, and he breached
The GP also failed to comply with his professional and legal
responsibilities to keep clear and accurate patient records. He did
not document clinical findings during numerous consultations with
the woman, did not fully document the care he provided on one
occasion when he prescribed her codeine, and he made a misleading
entry in her records on another occasion. The GP's record-keeping
failures were a breach of Right 4(2).
The GP was referred to the Director of Proceedings.