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Why have I been touched there? Managing allegations of inappropriate touching.

in All Physio Blogs, Physio Business/Marketing, Clinical Physio, Physio News
22 Jul 2019  |  0 Comments

Guild Insurance; Managing allegations of inapporopriate touching - physiotherapy professional indemnity insurance


A patient presented with back pain. During the consultation the physiotherapist treated, amongst other areas, the patient’s adductor muscles. The patient complained to AHPRA saying he felt violated and didn’t understand why he needed to be touched ‘down there’ to help treat his back pain. It was found that the physiotherapist did gain consent to treat the adductor muscles, however the patient didn’t understand where the adductor muscles are located.

The above case is a common scenario a physiotherapist can find themselves in. While treatment may be clinically justified, and inappropriate touching has not taken place, a patient can still feel as though it has. So how can you avoid this misunderstanding occurring?

Ensure informed consent to treatment

As a physiotherapist you have a professional obligation to ensure that your patient has given informed consent prior to any treatment. The treatment must be clearly explained to them in a manner they understand, this means avoiding clinical language. As part of the explanation you should include details such as various treatment options, and the possible risks involved. Signed consent forms should be considered however this does not replace a clear discussion of the treatment.

Beware of distractions

Casual chat during treatment is great way to create rapport but, be careful it doesn’t distract from explanation of treatment and gaining consent.

Don’t make assumptions

As a professional, it can be easy to forget that your patients don’t have the same understanding and familiarity with anatomy or physio techniques that you do. Never assume that a patient knows where or what something is. Instead, point out the part of the body on yourself or a model. Treatment should also be continually explained even when patients have received the treatment before.

Keep adequate records

Keeping records of a patient’s appointment and treatment has many benefits. In this case, it provides evidence of the clinical reasoning behind the treatment you have provided should a patient make an allegation. The records should show that the patient provided informed consent and that they understood the treatment before proceeding.

To learn more risk management tips or to find out how Guild Insurance could help protect your livelihood, visit Guild Insurance.


Guild Insurance Limited ABN 55 004 538 863, AFS Licence No. 233 791. This article contains information of a general nature only, and is not intended to constitute the provision of legal advice. PHY45802

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