Between 19 and 21 April 2021, the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal (the Tribunal) considered a charge of professional misconduct laid by a Professional Conduct Committee (PPC) appointed by the Medical Council of New Zealand against Dr Simon Bainbridge, medical practitioner of Auckland (the Doctor).
The charge alleged that between 2011 and 2018, the Doctor entered an inappropriate and/or sexual relationship with his patient who he treated between 2011 and 2013.
It was alleged that this conduct brought or would likely bring discredit to the profession under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 (the Act).
Between 2011 and 2013, the patient saw the Doctor 13 occasions for treatment. The relationship occurred between 2011 and 2018.
The patient and the Doctor went for coffee after a treatment session and exchanged numbers. The relationship became physical around this time. The first sexual encounter occurred in the patient’s car. They would also meet at a hotel, the clinic where the Doctor was working, and in their cars.
They would exchange calls and text messages. The patient was sent sexually explicit photographs by the Doctor, which were also seen by her personal trainer, with whom she shared details of the relationship.
The Doctor denied the initial meeting and that a sexual relationship ever developed between them. He said that after the professional relationship ceased in 2013, there was no further relationship, professional or otherwise between them.
In 2018, a complaint about the relationship was made to the Medical Council by the patient’s personal trainer. The Doctor wrote to the Medical Council in response, claiming that he had never acted inappropriately towards his patient.
The Tribunal found the charge established. It was satisfied on the balance of probabilities, that during the period 2011-2018, the Doctor entered into and maintained a sexual relationship with his patient over a lengthy period.
The Tribunal stated that not only does a power imbalance exist in any doctor/patient relationship, but that the patient in this circumstance was also very vulnerable. Even if the therapeutic relationship had ended at the time when the sexual relationship began, it was inappropriate for the Doctor to be involved with his patient.
The Tribunal held that the Doctor’s conduct was a serious departure from professional and ethical standards and would likely bring discredit to the medical profession under s 100(1)(b) of the Act.
The Tribunal had no doubt that there was a breach of professional standards by entering into a sexual relationship with the patient. The Doctor’s conduct was of such a serious nature to warrant disciplinary sanction.
- Censured the Doctor
- Cancelled the doctor’s registration;
- Ordered that the Practitioner does not apply for reregistration for a period of two years and eight months, from the date of the written decision;
- Imposed conditions upon the Doctor, in the event of his return to practice ;
- Ordered the Practitioner to pay costs amounting to $58,000.00.
The Tribunal directed publication and a summary on the Tribunal website.
The Doctor appealed to the High Court against the Tribunal’s decision including the finding of liability and that he did not have a fair hearing before the Tribunal. The Doctor also applied to submit fresh evidence to the Court. The High Court dismissed the appeal (JD v PCC  NZHC 3289).