Boundary Issues and The Connecticut Department of Public Health

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April, 2020

By: Attorney Richard Brown

Whether you are a doctor, nurse, psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker or any of the many professions licensed by the Connecticut Department of Public Health, DPH, you are being watched for boundary violation issues. Both moral and professional considerations surround the issues of when does the provider cross over from assisting a patient or a client to a sexual relationship some of which may have criminal implications, whether "consensual" or non-consensual sex.

In Connecticut there have been a series of incidents wherein the provider and the patient/client have engaged in an illicit relationship. Many times it appears to be mutual; that is, it seems both parties want to transfer the professional relationship into an intimate one. Neither party, at the time, may recognize the concept of "transference;" that is, the patient or client sees the health care provider as one who listens, who seems to care, who is there for them, unlike a partner, spouse or friend. The individual may even feel that they are falling in love and this person will be there one who "saves" them. Anyone in such a profession for any significant period of time has likely encountered such a situation. Regretfully, too many professionals, themselves, succumb to the temptation of rekindling the passion that was "lost" with their significant other with this newfound "love." In the eyes of DPH, one's colleagues, as well as the public in general, such a scenario is an unforgiveable breach of trust that is injurious long term to the patient/client and will not be tolerated by DPH; in most cases it will lead to revocation, not just suspension, of one's professional license. Additionally, in many instances, such misconduct can also lead to criminal prosecution with mandatory prison sentences.

In my career of representing such professionals who cross that solid line, I find myself representing my clients both before the administrative agency, such as DPH, as well as representing them in the criminal courtrooms. To avoid such outcomes, any professional must maintain a constant vigilance on one's self to protect the health and well being of the patient/client. This means at first sign that the patient/client is hinting at a romantic relationship, you should terminate (gently) the relationship and transfer the person to a new provider for future treatment; this may not be easy as your client/patient has formed a certain dependency on you; however, the longer you wait, the more difficult and perhaps, injurious, the separation will be. There are ample online courses you can take to assist you in these situations. How you handle these cases may very well have long term professional (and personal) implications. Consulting with an experienced attorney must be considered, especially if and when you receive that letter from DPH asking you for that now former patient/client records with the intent of conducting an investigation of your treatment with the patient; typically, either the patient or more likely, a loved one, files a complaint with DPH. From that moment on, one's professional license, and perhaps freedom, is in peril; that is the moment legal assistance is needed.