The Medical Council's decision that a doctor should be counselled on doctor/patient boundary issues, as recommended by a Professional Conduct Committee (PCC), has been quashed by the High Court.
In this case, the doctor had not been the complainant's treating doctor, but had interacted with the complainant in her professional capacity on three occasions, including calming the complainant following a scan procedure and taking a blood sample when the complainant's usual treatment team was not available. The doctor later entered into an intimate relationship with the complainant's partner (whom the doctor had known for some years). A PCC investigated and concluded that the doctor had breached Council guidelines and "the underlying principle of trust in the doctor patient relationship". The PCC's recommendation that the doctor be counselled on boundary issues was accepted by the Council. The doctor successfully challenged this decision by way of judicial review, with the High Court finding that the Council's decision was unreasonable. The Court also found that the reasons provided were inadequate as they did not enable the doctor (or the Court) to understand the basis on which the decision was made, and that the Council ought to have recognised a "case-specific" obligation to hear the doctor prior to making its decision (the doctor's request to be heard had been declined in accordance with the Council's usual practises). C v The Medical Council of New Zealand  NZHC 825