A physiotherapist is accused of having sex with his patient, who is also a close family friend, just hours after treating her for an injury.

The North Island physiotherapist, who has interim name suppression, is accused of engaging in conduct that brings discredit to his profession.

He appeared before a Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal hearing in Wellington today.

On December 30, 2013, the 45-year-old physiotherapist provided his ninth treatment to his 22-year-old female patient for a shoulder injury.


The woman, who also has interim name suppression, and the physiotherapist had text messaged and viber messaged each other after the treatment.

He then went to her house about 12 hours later, and had sex, the tribunal heard.

Hamilton physiotherapist Dennis Shepherd gave expert evidence, stating physiotherapists were bound by a code of ethics in the Aotearoa New Zealand Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct.

Mr Shepherd said six months was an appropriate time after discharging a patient to consider the person to not be a patient.

He said a physiotherapist needed to wait for a minimum of three months but up to six months before beginning an intimate relationship with a patient.

It didn't matter whether the physiotherapist or the patient instigated the relationship, Mr Shepherd said.

"The boundaries are still clear."

If a practitioner had a long standing relationship with a patient, Mr Shepherd said he would regard that person as akin to a family member and they shouldn't be a patient.


The physiotherapist is set to give evidence later today.

The woman's father complained to the Health and Disability Commissioner after finding out what had happened.

The physiotherapist admitted he knew the woman "very well", as they attended the same church.

She also grew up with their son.

"I did see a lot of her," he said.

He said because the woman wasn't a family member and therefore didn't think it was unethical for her to be his patient.


When asked by the Director of Proceedings' counsel Rachael Schmidt-McCleave if there was a natural power imbalance between him and the woman, he agreed.

"The lines were very very blurred. I'm in complete regret with harm and upsetness I have caused her family.

"I'm married so I have a lot of regret."

The man, who has been a physiotherapist for 25 years, said he was going through a difficult time in his life at the time, suffering ongoing health issues.

He described this situation as "unique" because he knew the woman very well through his church.

But admitted he made an error of judgment.


In her closing submissions, Ms Schmidt-McCleave said 12 hours wasn't enough time to dissolve the power imbalance between a physiotherapist and a patient when beginning an intimate relationship.

She said while the ninth treatment may have been the last treatment, "there was every likelihood ... she may have had to seek further consultation [by the physiotherapist]".

Ms Schmidt-McCleave said because the physiotherapist and the woman had known each other prior to her becoming his patient, it required "even more so, that professional boundaries be strictly maintained rather than the pre-existing knowledge being an excuse to cross those boundaries".

His actions "clearly amount to malpractice and bring discredit to the profession ...," she said.

The physiotherapist's lawyer Christopher Stevenson said the woman's treatment had "well and truly ceased" when they began their intimate relationship and both had consented.