A forensic mental health nurse was alleged to a violating act as he had a sexual intercourse with a patient.
According to the media, this incident occurred in 2013. The nurse visited the house of a female patient of whom he was taking care. At the meeting, he demanded her to be intimate with him. They had sexual intercourse twice, but after that the patient reported it to the case manager. Furthermore, she thought to attempt suicide.
The New Zealand Herald: Nurse may lose licence over sex with mentally ill woman
The nurse was dropped from medical work, and underwent a professional counselling. He remains at a risk of being got rid of nurse licence.
In New Zealand, Nursing Council clearly regulate that nurses are banned from sexual or intimate behavior or relationships with patients and those close to them.
This is an absurd case at a glance. The behavior of this nurse seems out of the question. However, it is not so simply
In fact, it was reported that 7.1% of male and 3.1% of female psychiatrists had experienced some sexual attachment with their patients in the US. This proportions decreased in 1980s, for not the growth of ethics but the pressure of medical insurance companies (see Gartrell, 1986, Borys and Pope, 1989).
This report is astonishing, but I have heard some rumor about this kind of matter. Indeed, some psychiatrists married his/her ex-patient.
Why is it unethical to a medical practitioner to be intimate with a patient? I think there are two reasons.
First, patients are inferior to medical practitioners in terms of negotiation. They rely on professionals for their own life more or less. This asymmetric relationship makes them unequal. Thus, courting from professionals to patients can be deemed as a harassment, or even coercion. In this context, courting from patients to professionals is not problematic, on the contrary. Actually, it occasionally occurs in clinical setting. However, professionals should not accept the court, as a principle.
This is the second reason. Patients are suffering from their disease. Such adverse condition interferes more or less the ability of making proper decision. In addition, medical practitioners look like an omnipotent for the patients. So, they easily misidentify the trust on the professionals as the love or worship. I have no intention to despise the ability of patients. But it is also a phenomenon frequently occurred in clinical practice.
For these reasons, medical practitioners are taught not to have an intimate relationship with patients. Some years ago, British Medical Association advised to doctors and medical students not to accept Facebook requests from current or former patients. It is also for a protection of personal information of the patients.
I am not sure what the nurse thought about this taboo. As the Commissioner Anthony Hill said, this nurse requires to get trained again on professional boundaries, if he will return to this job.