Sexual Misconduct

Law, rules and regulations, not Alerts, specify the requirements for practice and violating them constitutes professional misconduct. Not adhering to this Alert may be interpreted as professional misconduct only if the conduct also violates pertinent law, rules and regulations, some citations of which are listed at the end of this Alert.

Sexual misconduct can be the basis of a charge of professional misconduct. Increasingly across many health professions, including chiropractic, patients are filing complaints alleging that licensees have engaged in some form of sexual misconduct. Since the primary techniques of chiropractic care are "hands-on" requiring the practitioner to be in close proximity to the patient's body, you should be aware of and anticipate situations that could be perceived as sexual misconduct, and take measures to prevent them.

Patient complaints of sexual misconduct may range from allegations of predatory behavior by licensees, inappropriate romantic relationships, or unexpected physical contact during provision of clinical procedures. Be aware that even if you have taken steps to prevent erroneous allegations, if a complaint is filed, these measures do not provide you with immunity from prosecution.

Good communication can prevent misunderstandings between people, especially health care professionals and their patients. Also, clear, concise documentation of all procedures provided and the reasons for them can form a record that may make the difference between credible and defensible actions and questionable, indefensible practice.

As you prepare to provide care to a patient, consider using every reasonable means available to you to provide the patient with the following information:

  • what will be done
  • how it will be done
  • why it will be done, and
  • request him or her to signal when ready.

Prepared text, posters, photographs, videos, computer programs and other tools may be effective in providing pertinent consumer information in addition to direct interaction with your patients. Proper communication not only prepares a patient for the procedure; it provides opportunity for the patient to share expectations, anxieties and personal histories that may have a direct bearing on necessary care, thus enabling you to provide that care with more sensitivity, responsiveness, and efficacy. Therefore, it is considered good practice to be sensitive to words and actions that may be offensive to some patients, and to modify those words and actions to ensure that patients receive the care they need.

To avoid any exploitation or coercion of a patient and to minimize the likelihood of a complaint alleging a boundary violation, you should avoid engaging any patient in a romantic relationship. If you do seek such a relationship with a particular patient, you should refer that patient to another licensee and document the reason for the referral.

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Citations of Pertinent Law, Rules or Regulations:

  • Education Law, section 6509(9) - "unprofessional conduct"
  • Regents Rules, part 29.1(b)(2) - "exercising undue influence"
  • Regents Rules, part 29.1(b)(5) - "moral unfitness to practice"
  • Regents Rules, part 29.2(a)(2) - "patient/client harassment, abuse, intimidation"
Last Updated: May 9, 2012