Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency - Practitioner disqualified from applying for registration for 15 years
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Practitioner disqualified from applying for registration for 15 years

17 Dec 2020

A Chinese medicine practitioner convicted of raping a patient has been disqualified by a tribunal from applying for registration for 15 years.

The South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) found that Dong Zhou had behaved in a way that constituted professional misconduct and his actions had brought the Chinese medicine profession into disrespect.

The tribunal ordered that Mr Zhou be:

  • reprimanded
  • disqualified from applying for registration as a registered health practitioner for 15 years from 11 December 2019
  • prohibited from providing any health service during the period of disqualification that uses his skills and knowledge gained as a Chinese medicine practitioner
  • prohibited from using the title ‘Chinese medicine practitioner’ until he is registered to do so under the National Law.1

The Chinese Medicine Board of Australia (the Board) referred Mr Zhou to the tribunal in May 2019 for professional misconduct after he was convicted of raping a patient, alleging that he was not a fit and proper person to hold registration.

Mr Zhou continues to maintain his innocence. He conceded to the tribunal that his conviction and sentence of imprisonment, for conduct which he continues to deny, amounted to professional misconduct.

In May 2016, the patient reported to South Australia Police that she had been sexually assaulted by Mr Zhou while he gave her a remedial massage. Police later contacted the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) before charging Mr Zhou and in September 2016, the Board took immediate action to suspend Mr Zhou’s registration.

The Board subsequently accepted an undertaking from Mr Zhou to not see female patients and to practise under direct supervision for other patients and only in locations approved by the Board.

Mr Zhou pleaded not guilty in August 2017 to a single charge of rape. On 1 August 2018, a jury found Mr Zhou guilty of raping the patient. He was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment with a non-parole period of one year and two months. In sentencing, the judge stated that this offence was ‘far less serious than many other offences of rape’ and that Mr Zhou was highly unlikely to re-offend.

The tribunal expressed its significant concern over Mr Zhou’s failure to accept responsibility for his conduct, to provide any explanation for it, or to offer any observations of concern for the welfare of the patient. This placed the conduct into the higher end of the spectrum of unprofessional behaviour and reflected on his fitness to practise.

The tribunal said Mr Zhou preyed upon a patient who was, at the time, in a position of physical vulnerability and who was entitled to trust that he would exercise professional behaviour in providing a remedial massage service to her.

‘The circumstances here indicate a clear disregard for his patient’s dignity, rights and self-respect or for her psychological and emotional welfare.'

The tribunal said Mr Zhou’s conduct required a severe disciplinary response to ensure protection of the public and to make it clear to him, other practitioners and the public the seriousness with which the tribunal views such conduct towards vulnerable persons in a professional consultation, and that the standards of the Chinese medicine profession should be upheld.

Mr Zhou voluntarily allowed his registration to lapse in January 2019 and has indicated he will not resume his career in Chinese medicine or any related field in the future. The tribunal ordered him to pay the Board’s costs.

The tribunal’s decision is published on the AustLII website.

1 The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, as in force in each state and territory (the National Law).

Page reviewed 17/12/2020