Here we have a case of a psychologist over-servicing and taking advantage of a vulnerable patient.
Dr Hugh Ian Joffe, a registered psychologist practising in Vaucluse, Sydney, charged his banker patient almost $220,000 in sessions that were overtaken by his plans to make a Holocaust documentary with the patient.
The Tribunal heard Dr Joffe proposed to see the patient six days a week and, knowing what salary he was earning, told him he would need to borrow money to fund the therapy. The patient claimed that he had spent a total amount (on therapy and film): $360,000 plus ongoing interest on mortgage payments.
Dr Joffe also advised the patient to reconnect with Judaism, in particular Orthodox Judaism, and to worship at the same synagogue as him; stop eating non-Kosher food and attended the patient’s home for religious ceremonies.
The patient said, “I believe I was taken advantage of by Dr Joffe. I believe I was over-serviced by Dr Joffe and that he was wrong to enter into a film project with me and to encourage me to incur excessive costs, funded [by] my mortgage.”
After 41 years, Dr Joffe retired from practising in April 2017, surrendering his registration the following month.
The Civil and Administrative Tribunal of NSW found that Dr Hugh Joffe’s “conduct was aimed at his own gratification; was egregious in that it was an extreme and invasive manipulation of Patient A’s life at many levels; and that it took advantage of Patient A’s weaknesses that he, Dr Joffe, as therapist, had a unique insight into.”
The Tribunal further stated “the conduct complained constitutes boundary violation of the most serious kind and exploitation of a vulnerable patient, and breaches all relevant codes of conduct in relation to the maintenance of trust and confidence in the psychologist/patient relationship. The Tribunal finds that the respondent has consistently displayed a concerning lack of insight into the seriousness of his conduct.”
The Tribunal cancelled Dr Joffe’s registration, prohibiting from providing any health services, and barred him from re-registering for 4 years.