(11HDC00237, 26 March 2013) A woman complained that she and her general practitioner (GP) had a sexual relationship that lasted almost one year. The woman had been a patient of the GP for a number of years, and had consulted him for issues of a sensitive nature. During the last three months of the relationship, the GP persistently texted the woman on two different cell phone numbers, and the content of some of those test messages was sexually explicit.
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.
Health and Disability Commissioner Anthony Hill found that the GP breached the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights for failing to maintain professional boundaries and ethical standards. The Commissioner also found that the GP sexually exploited the woman. Concern was also expressed about the frequency with which the GP was contacting her.
Furthermore, the Commissioner found that the GP failed to exercise reasonable care and skill when he prescribed codeine to the woman over the telephone, eight months after she had experienced an anaphylactic reaction to codeine that had required hospitalisation. The GP also failed to comply with his professional and legal responsibilities to keep clear and accurate records.
The GP was referred to the Director of Proceedings. The Director is yet to make a decision whether to take a proceeding in this matter.