It was alleged that while the practitioner and the patient were in the consultation, the practitioner failed to observe appropriate professional boundaries in that he made inappropriate personal disclosures to the patient about himself and his family. These included details that he had cancer; he did not want to die; he had recently undergone major abdominal surgery; he had a large scar from his recent surgery that went from his torso to his groin area; his wife was old, his son was a vet; and that he was not happy about his son being a vet. 

Further, it was alleged that while undertaking the examination, the practitioner had inadvertently brushed himself against the patient’s back and breasts where there was no clinical indication to do so, and failed to provide privacy to the patient in that he did not leave the room when the patient was disrobing or provide her with a gown. 

Although the Tribunal was not satisfied that all of the alleged disclosures were said, it still found that the care exercised by the practitioner was significantly below the standard because he failed to maintain appropriate professional boundaries in the context of a medico-legal consultation.

The allegations in relation to inadvertent brushing were not made out. However, the allegations about him failing to leave the room whilst the patient disrobed and failing to offer a gown were accepted and found to constitute unsatisfactory professional conduct.

The Tribunal took into account that the practitioner was an elderly man and in very poor health and cautioned him in relation to making inappropriate personal disclosures to a patient, and reprimanded him for his failure to provide adequate privacy to the patient when she was disrobing.

The full decision in Health Care Complaints Commission v Wilcox [2020] NSWCATOD 10 can be read here