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Communication and Understanding Patient Boundaries

The GCC’s Investigating Committee are continuing to consider several complaints relating to patient boundaries and communication, specifically cases around removing patient clothing without consent leading to concerns that the treatments may be sexually motivated or for sexual gratification.

The work of a chiropractor routinely involves seeing patients dressed in their underwear or gowns, ie. in semi naked state. As such, some become oblivious and desensitized to seeing patients in this state of undress.

Patients, however, may be uncomfortable in their underwear or gown and unclear on why they need to undress, especially for those who have not attended a chiropractor in the past. It is therefore important to inform patients in advance as to what you are about to do and why, for example removing their underwear and/or gown.

Principle E6 of the GCC Code of Standards of conduct, performance and ethics for chiropractors states that a registrant must, “always obtain a patient’s consent if it becomes necessary for the purposes of examination and treatment during care, for you to adjust and/or remove items of the patient’s clothing.

Chiropractors have a responsibility to communicate clearly with patients to enable them to better understand the reasons and processes of examination and treatment. Without this clear, pre-emptive patient/chiropractor communication and understanding, chiropractors could potentially find themselves subject to a complaint from a patient who is concerned that the removal of their clothing was without permission and/or sexually motivated.

Read the latest Blog by Nick Jones, GCC Chief Executive and Registrar