Sports therapist admits he should have covered woman's breasts

By Jimmy Ellingham

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

An octogenarian Nelson sporting identity says he should have covered a woman's breasts when he treated her for nerve pain.

But former professional boxer and wrestler Edward Saxon, who is 87 and runs a sports therapy business in Nelson, denies making inappropriate comments to the woman and regrets paying her $5000 to settle the dispute about her treatment.

In July 2012, a woman whose name is suppressed, visited the business seeking help for chronic sciatic nerve pain, which ran from her left foot to her hip.

She was on medication and had tried other forms of treatment, according to a Human Rights Review Tribunal decision released today.

The woman was happy with her first visit to Mr Saxon's business and even disclosed to him "some information about her past history of sexual abuse".

She was not told in advance about the specifics of what he would do, but she returned a week later for a second appointment, assuming her treatment would be the same.

But it wasn't. After working on the woman's leg and lower back Mr Saxon asked the woman to remove her jacket and then her skivvy.

She slipped her arms out of the skivvy, but left it hanging around her neck. She was not wearing a bra and there was no screened-off area for the woman to get changed in, the decision says.

Mr Saxon continued working on her neck and shoulders as she lay face down, but then asked her to roll over.

The woman did so and "was lying on her back with her breasts exposed for a few minutes" as Mr Saxon treated her neck.

The woman felt "distressed and upset" and the decision says Mr Saxon made comments he accepts are inappropriate "with the benefit of hindsight".

Mr Saxon then shifted the woman's underwear as he worked on her gluteal muscles and he asked the woman if the treatment felt good.

He did not take notes about the consultation, as is normal practice, and the woman left feeling "angry and confused".

The Human Rights Review Tribunal ruled Mr Saxon had breached aspects of the Heath and Disability Commissioner (code of health and disability services consumers' rights) regulations.

He had not taken proper notes of the woman's visits, or given her enough information to make an informed choice about the treatment. Nor had he taken adequate steps to protect, maintain or respect her privacy.

The tribunal ordered a declaration to record Mr Saxon's breaches, and noted he and the woman had settled between themselves on damages and costs.

Mr Saxon today told APNZ he paid the woman $5000, but thought he hadn't done anything wrong, apart from not covering her breasts.

He also denied making inappropriate comments, saying his asking the woman: "Does that feel good?", was the equivalent of saying: "Does that feel better".

Mr Saxon also said he told the woman she had shoulders like those of a rower.

He said $5000 was a lot of money, and the whole experience left him feeling "trodden on" and "foolish" because of the way things had turned out.

"It's sad for me because everybody sort of knows me in Nelson, and I think I have respect from them."

Mr Saxon had worked as a sports therapist for about 34 years, and named several famous athletes he had treated. He is also a volunteer sports coach.

- APNZ

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