Physio suspended after sex with rugby players

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Physiotherapist Tania Suzanne Williams has been suspended by a disciplinary tribunal for having sex with two patients. Photo / Supplied

A female physiotherapist has been suspended after having sex with two male patients who played premier rugby in sports groups she worked for.

Tania Suzanne Williams has been suspended for a year, censured and ordered to pay costs of nearly $10,000, according to a decision made public today by the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal.

Williams admitted the charge - laid by a committee of the Physiotherapy Board - and that it was professional misconduct.

The names of the players - both of them at premier level - and the rugby organisations are suppressed.

The sexual relationship with "Mr R" occurred from May to July 2014. The one with Mr M began between late September and early October 2014.

Mr M's marriage ended in September 2014 and Williams believed this occurred before the start of her sexual relationship with him

The complainants are Mr R, Mrs M, one of the organisations and an official of one of them, a rugby club.

"Ms Williams provided Mr R with physiotherapy services, including rubbing down his calves and hamstrings, before rugby games," the tribunal said.

They had met in April, 2014. The following month, she asked him to visit her at home to talk about her relationship problems she was having with her partner.

"... Ms Williams provided Mr R with alcohol and food. Later in the evening they had sex. Subsequently, Ms Williams and Mr R had sex at her house on five separate occasions. The sexual relationship was at all times consensual.

Continued below.

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"On at least one occasion, Mr R went round to Ms Williams' house for physiotherapy treatment. After she had provided him with the physiotherapy they had sex."

The official, who had heard rumours of the relationship, approached them both, separately, to say that a physiotherapist entering a personal relationship with a player was inappropriate and unprofessional.

Williams also met Mr M in April 2014. He had problems with his knees and right shoulder and Williams strapped them before matches. She also treated him as a private patient.

She texted him and occasionally phoned him. "If Mrs M answered his cellphone, Ms Williams would end the call without talking."

In October 2014, the official ended Williams' involvement with the two organisations when he discovered her sexual relationship with Mr M.

Sports physiotherapists have three codes of ethics, all of which ban having sex with a patient.

In a position statement on sexual boundaries, Physiotherapy NZ says, "Physiotherapists, like a number of other professionals, are involved in relationships in which there is a potential imbalance of power. The physiotherapist to patient relationship is not one of equality. In seeking assistance, guidance and treatment the patient is vulnerable.

"Sexual exploitation of the patient is an abuse of power. Because of the power imbalance, initiation by the patient and their consent is not considered a valid defence."

The tribunal said Williams' misconduct had caused significant distress and disruption to the club membership and the families involved.

However, she had apologised to the complainants. She had also taken steps in her own rehabilitation by seeking a chaperone at sporting tournaments and in avoiding treating male patients. She had also sought the supervision of another physiotherapist.

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