Charge Detail Summary

File Number: Chiro22/540D
Practitioner: William John Donaldson
Hearing Start Date:

Hearing End Date:

Hearing Town/City:
Hearing Location:
Charge Characteristics:

Communication inadequate/inappropriate (Established)

Professional boundaries breached  

Sexual misconduct - sexual relationship with patient or former patient or partner of patient

Additional Orders:

Name Suppression to Practitioner

Order for interim suppression of the name and identifying details of the practitioner (Dr N)

Application for permanent name suppression of the practitioner declined

1224Chiro22540D.pdf1269Chiro22540D - Decision.pdf

Name Suppression to Complainant and/or Patient and/or client

Order for interim suppression of the names and identifying details of the consumer (Mrs O), the consumer's husband (Mr O) and the consumer's child (O)

Order for permanent suppression of the names and identifying details of the consumer (Mrs O), the consumer's husband (Mr O) and the consumer's child (O)

1224Chiro22540D.pdf1269Chiro22540D - Decision.pdf

Appeal Order:


Full Decision 1269Chiro22540D - Decision.pdf

Appeal Decision:

Precis of Decision:


On 1 August 2022 by audio visual link the Health Practitioner’s Disciplinary Tribunal heard a charge laid by the Director of Proceedings of the Health and Disability Commissioner’s office against Dr William John Donaldson registered chiropractor of Auckland (the chiropractor).


The charge alleged that the chiropractor:


  1. In October 2016, during a period of time in which he was caring for his patient, he discussed with his patient, commencing a sexual and/or intimate relationship with her, and/or,


  1. Between November 2016 and October 2018 while caring for his patient the chiropractor:
  1. Failed to set and/or maintain appropriate professional boundaries with his patient, and/or,
  2. Engaged in a sexual relationship with his patient, and/or


  1. Between December 2016 and November 2018, while caring for the patient’s child, he engaged in a sexual relationship with his patient.


The conduct alleged above separately or cumulatively amounts to professional misconduct.  The conduct is alleged to amount to malpractice and/or negligence and/or conduct that brings discredit to the chiropractic profession under s100(1)(a) and s100/(1)(b).


The chiropractor accepted the charge and the hearing proceeded by way of an Agreed Summary of Facts.




The patient first saw the chiropractor in January 2016.  She saw the chiropractor approximately every two weeks until October 2019.  Her treatment included chiropractic spinal corrections, muscle balancing techniques, kinesiology and Total Body Modification.  The chiropractor also went on to treat the patient for anxiety and fear that she suffered.


In the first several months the treatments provided were those of a normal provider/consumer relationship.  Later in 2016, an attraction formed between the chiropractor and his patient. 


The chiropractor saw his patient soon after she had a melt-down on her way home from a family holiday.  The patient had also recently lost a close family member. Shortly after, the chiropractor discussed commencing a sexual relationship with her.  The relationship commenced soon after and continued until late November 2018.  The couple typically met every weekday morning and either weekday lunch or briefly after work.


The chiropractor continued to treat the patient’s child during this time and for another month after the relationship ended.




The Tribunal found that the charge was established and warranted disciplinary sanction.  The relationship was not a one-off momentary lapse in judgement but a sustained breach of professional ethics over two years.  The Tribunal considered the continued treatment of the patient’s child during the relationship and for one month after was an aggravating feature of the chiropractor’s conduct rather that a separate further breach of boundaries as suggested by the Director of Proceedings.


Particulars 2 and 3 separately, and all three particulars cumulatively amounted to malpractice and a serious departure from expected standards.  The conduct brought disrepute to the chiropractic profession.




When considering penalties to be imposed, the Tribunal took into account that the chiropractor does not have a prior history of disciplinary offending.  He had made some rehabilitative steps and taken 18 months out of clinical practice as part of his rehabilitation.


The Tribunal ordered:


  • Suspension of registration. The Tribunal took into account the 18 months self-imposed suspension and ordered a further suspension of 8 months.
  • At the recommencement of practice, conditions for a period of two years.
  • Censure
  • Costs amounting to $6,300.


The Tribunal directed publication of the decision and a summary.