23 Nov 2023
A Queensland chiropractor has been reprimanded and had conditions imposed on his registration after he failed to maintain appropriate professional boundaries with a patient by engaging in a personal/sexual relationship with the patient shortly following the start of a therapeutic relationship.
The case was referred to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) by the Chiropractic Board of Australia (the Board), which alleged Mr Sean Dillon, a registered chiropractor, had failed to maintain appropriate professional boundaries by engaging in an inappropriate personal/sexual relationship with a patient and failed to appropriately manage and document the dual relationship.
In July 2016, two mandatory notifications were made about Mr Dillon, one from a general practitioner and the other from a psychologist, both employed at the same health care centre as Mr Dillon.
At the same time, Mr Dillon made a voluntary notification to the Office of the Health Ombudsman (in Queensland).
On 7 June 2022, the tribunal heard that Mr Dillon was in a personal/sexual relationship with a woman who he also worked with at the health care centre. At some point in the relationship, he suggested the woman see him for chiropractic treatment which she did. He failed to make any notes about the personal relationship or his management of any conflict of interest in his clinical notes.
The tribunal noted there was disagreement about whether the treating relationship started before or after the personal/sexual relationship. While Mr Dillon admitted the sexual relationship, he argued that it started before the provision of treatment. Mr Dillon also argued that his behaviour did not constitute unprofessional conduct or professional misconduct.
The tribunal agreed with the Board that irrespective of when the sexual relationship started, either before or after the start of the treating relationship, Mr Dillon’s behaviour breached the Board’s Code of Conduct (Code of Conduct of Chiropractors (2014)) and constitutes professional misconduct.
The tribunal noted that while Mr Dillon ‘showed some insight into the seriousness of his conduct, he understates his behaviour as a mere “error of judgement”’.
The tribunal found that Mr Dillon behaved in a way that constitutes professional misconduct, and ordered that he:
Read the tribunal’s full decision.