Home' OsteoLife : OsteoLife Autumn 2015 Contents 20 Osteopathy Australia
uild Insurance sees numerous claims against
osteopaths each year where the patient claims
the osteopath has touched them or acted
inappropriately during the course of treatment.
In the majority of cases the osteopath has
provided appropriate treatment that is clinically justified.
So why would their patients complain?
Osteopaths need to make sure they
communicate with patients to ensure they
feel comfortable about their treatment.
The patient presented complaining of jaw pain and also
mentioned that she had been seeing a chiropractor for an
unstable pelvis and coccyx following childbirth. The osteopath
provided a range of assessments and treatments to her spine,
jaw and pelvis. Following the treatment the patient complained
to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA)
that the osteopath had not provided her with adequate privacy
to undress and dress, as he did not leave the room during this
time or offer the use of a screen. She also complained that
he did not fully explain or gain her consent for the treatment
provided, specifically the treatment around her pelvis region. The
patient also felt uncomfortable during treatment as she felt the
towel used to cover her while lying on the treatment table was
inadequate to cover her as she rolled over. Overall, the patient felt
quite vulnerable and uncomfortable throughout the consultation.
Following an investigation by the Osteopathy Board of Australia,
the osteopath agreed to undertake further education on informed
consent, communication and record keeping.
The patient went to see the osteopath due to back pain. During
the assessment and treatment the osteopath treated, among
other areas, her adductor muscles. The patient acknowledged
the osteopath asked if it was okay for him to treat this region,
however, as she didn’t know what her adductor muscles were,
she didn’t know what she was agreeing to. Even though the
patient felt her pain had improved following the treatment, she
left the consultation feeling violated. She didn’t understand why
he needed to touch her ‘down there’ to treat her back. The matter
was reported to AHPRA. The Osteopathy Board’s investigation
found that the treatment provided by the osteopath was
appropriate. However, the osteopath was cautioned regarding his
communication with patients and informed consent processes and
was instructed to undertake further education in these areas.
“WhAt is obviouS or
common SenSe to You As
An OstEOpAth Will nOt bE
ObviOus tO yOur pAtiEnts.”
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. Guild Insurance supports your Association through the
payment of referral fees for certain products or services you
take out with them.
Quick tips to avoid complaints
of inappropriate behaviour
• The gender of the patient and the practitioner is
irrelevant in relation to appropriate touching – the
same rules apply to all.
• Leave the room while patients undress and dress, or
provide a full screen for them to use.
• Provide each patient with clean towels or a robe to
assist with patient modesty. Where possible, use these
to keep parts of the body not being treated covered.
• Ensure the patient understands and has consented to
the treatment before you commence. If this treatment
is to a sensitive or private body part, be sure they
• Consider obtaining written consent for treatment to
particularly sensitive or private areas.
• Remember that what is obvious or common sense
to you as an osteopath will not be obvious to
Osteopathy Australia recognises the importance of
osteopaths understanding what they should do to avoid
an allegation of inappropriate behaviour. For this reason
they have created very useful information resources to
assist the profession. To access this information please visit
Osteopathy Australia’s website at www.osteopathy.org.au.
As a registered osteopath, it is your responsibility to
understand and comply with requirements regarding the
treatment of your patients.
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