Psychiatrist had long-running affair with patient

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

A married psychiatrist who allegedly had a sexual relationship spanning countries and almost a year has been found in breach of professional and legal standards.

When the affair came to light, the doctor allegedly paid the 24-year-old $42,200 to try to keep it secret from authorities.

In a recently released report, the Health and Disability Commissioner (HDC) found the psychiatrist, referred to only as Dr C, entered an ongoing intimate relationship with his 24-year-old patient, Ms A, a woman who suffered from fear of separation, difficulty connecting with people her own age and a discomfort from intimate relationships.

Doctor C denied their relationship was sexual.

The pair first met in April 2008, when Dr C gave Ms A an initial assessment.

Several appointments followed, in which, the doctor told her she was "very attractive", said the report.

Two months later, Ms A went to Mr C's apartment - she said he had invited her, but he disagreed, saying she turned up unannounced.

The pair cooked a meal, and during it the doctor "got up and gave me a kiss", and he then initiated sexual contact, said Ms A.

She told him she had never slept with a man before.

The pair continued to have an intimate relationship, meeting at his apartment as his wife lived in another town, said Ms A.

Dr C countered, that "he saw no intention on her part other than seeking someone to talk to", when she came to his apartment.

On returning from an overseas trip with his wife in July, he gave Ms A a bracelet, two necklaces, sweets, lingerie and a watch, said the finding.

On August 18, 2008, Dr C discharged her as a patient by phone.

His contract with the DHB was due to end two months later, and Dr C successfully applied for a job overseas.

Dr C told Ms A she could continue her nursing studies at a university in the same place as his new job - his wife would be with him but he would 'help Ms A get settled and would be in the background to support her whenever she needed help', said the report.

Ms A followed his suggestion, enrolling at the university, and for several days stayed in the couple's spare room.

"Being a mother to a university student studying away from home ... I felt compassion and understood that it might be difficult for her to be alone in a new place," the doctor's wife told the HDC.

The couple also bought Ms A groceries and other items.

But in February 2009, the affair was uncovered when Ms A confessed to Dr C's wife.

Dr C said Ms A had formed a "deep emotional attachment" to him, which he said was inappropriate, so he and his wife then offered to pay her ticket home and gave her $900 to "tide her over".

When Dr C failed to pay her more money as requested, Ms A made a complaint about their relationship to the HDC.

Dr C deposited $5000 into her account, but she asked for more to "study, buy a car, pay rent and other expenses", and in total he gave her $42,200.

The agreement was made on the promise she could change her statement to the HDC to "anything she desired", said the report.

Dr C accepted he had "inadvertently allowed [Ms A] to become dependent on him", but denied the pair ever had a sexual relationship: "This is simply not so and as I have previously made clear, such a finding or opinion is incorrect", said the report.

The HDC found Dr C had a sexual relationship with Ms A, which breached legal and professional standards.

It recommended he apologise to Ms A, and if he returned to practise in New Zealand, that he undertake a competency review and mentoring.

Further HDC proceedings may follow.

- APNZ

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