Doctor's sexual advances lead to complaint

A GP who asked his patient to bend over a table while making sexual gestures toward her has been referred to the Health and Disability director of proceedings to decide whether any action should be taken.

Names of those involved are suppressed, but an investigation into the incident by the Health and Disability Commissioner found the doctor, known only as Dr B, harassed and sexually exploited the woman who had sought his help for depression.

The ordeal began when the patient consulted her doctor after a "depressive episode" in 2008.

In her complaint to the commissioner, she detailed a distressing incident she had been involved in some years earlier, which had involved legal proceedings, and he told her about a similar incident that he had been involved in.  

He later called her at her home, to check she was okay. In findings released today, the patient said that at the time, she thought the doctor was "just being nice".

Some months later, the patient made another appointment to see him, but was told he was working at a different clinic, so she booked there. The patient saw him a few more times throughout 2008.

But at a consultation in March 2009, the patient told the doctor she was still taking anti-depressants and in addition to her normal "stressors", she was also under financial stress, and had recently separated from her partner.

The commissioner's report said the patient declined to discuss that aspect of her life further, when the doctor asked if her break up was a "done deal".

At the end of the consultation, the doctor asked the woman, who was a health professional herself, whether he could give her a hug. The woman said she felt comfortable with that.

But afterwards, the GP closed and locked his exam-room door and drew the curtains.

The report said the patient "did not feel 'ok' or comfortable with this". She told the Commissioner that the doctor then told her to bend over his table "and I did, (I do not know why I did)," she said.

The doctor then made inappropriate sexual movements, which he did not deny making to the Commissioner.
According to the report, the doctor then stopped himself and told the patient that there had been a  breach of the professional relationship.

He asked his patient where she worked and whether he could come to see there. She said she agreed because her work place office was always busy, with people around.

Later that day, the doctor arrived at his patient's office and seemed "hot and nervous".

He closed her office door, undid his trousers and asked her to perform a sex act on him. He lay down and also offered to perform a sex act on her and told her that they could have a relationship.

The patient said she asked him to pull up his trousers and sit down. She said she told him that he would regret this and that he needed to tell his wife what had happened.

In the report, the doctor accepted he visited his patient at her office but denied harassing her and asking for sex.

The patient let doctors at her original practice know of the incident, but did not wish to take it further.

But after further consultation with the patient, doctors at the practice told Dr B that they were obliged to take this information to the Medical Council.

On hearing this information, Dr B put his head in his hands, and his first words were, "Oh shit."

He then pleaded with the other doctor to withhold the information. The report said that, at the time, the patient did not support the complaint, but she later laid her own complaint with the Commissioner in 2012.

In September, the Medical Council placed restrictions on the doctor including requiring him to have a chaperone when seeing any female patient and to inform patients and their support people of this fact. He also had to disclose the restrictions to any prospective employers and any future employment had to be approved by the Medical Council.

In his findings, the Commissioner found he was "satisfied" that Dr B had breached sexual boundaries with his patient.

"I am also satisfied that Dr B's behaviour and actions were designed to gratify his sexual desires."

The Commissioner recommended the doctor continued to be supervised until 2015 and referred the incident to the director of proceedings to decide whether any further action should be taken. A decision has not yet been made.