Engaging in sexual activity with a patient, making
sexual remarks, touching a patient in a sexual way or engaging in sexual
behaviour in front of a patient are all sexual misconduct, regardless of
whether the patient consents.
If another practitioner forms a
“reasonable belief” that you have engaged in sexual misconduct, they must
report you to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA),
under mandatory reporting requirements.
The Medical Board of
Australia’s guidelines on sexual boundaries state:
practice relies on trust between doctors and patients and their families. It is
always unethical and unprofessional for a doctor to breach this trust by
entering into a sexual relationship with a patient, regardless of whether the
patient has consented to the relationship. It may also be unethical and
unprofessional for a doctor to enter into a sexual relationship with a former
patient, an existing patient’s carer or a close relative of an existing
patient, if this breaches the trust the patient placed in the doctor.”
But what about relationships with former patients or someone close to a
For psychiatrists it is misconduct to enter into a sexual
relationship with a former patient even though the treating relationship is no
longer on foot . For other specialty groups a relationship with a
former patient may be acceptable depending on factors such as the duration of
care provided to the patient, time elapsed since the end of the professional
relationship and the degree of dependence and vulnerability of the patient.
Sexual activity with a person close to a patient such as carer,
guardian, spouse or child of the patient, or the parent of a child patient is
If you feel you are at risk of a boundary
violation or have overstepped your professional boundaries, seek advice. You
can contact Avant’s Medico-Legal Advisory Service or Avant’s Member Support
Service for confidential counselling.
If you receive a complaint
alleging sexual misconduct or breach of a boundary issue, do:
Avant for immediate legal advice. You will also need to notify Avant in
- Understand that it is perfectly normal to feel angry or upset
on receiving the complaint
- ignore the complaint
- contact the patient involved
Your first instinct may be to contact the patient to ‘sort things out’,
but in most States it is an offence to attempt to persuade the complainant to
discontinue the complaint or to take any reprisal action.