A Surrey massage therapist has had his licence suspended for five days following investigation into allegations he may have been photographing patients during treatments. (File photo)

Surrey massage therapist suspended for reading books on cellphone during treatments

Investigation sparked by patient who was concerned she’d been photographed

A Surrey registered massage therapist has had his licence suspended for five days and is not allowed to use a mobile phone while treating patients, after a woman complained to the College of Massage Therapists of B.C. about possibly being photographed or videoed during treatment.

According to details of disciplinary action posted to the CMTBC website, Chris Elson’s suspension took effect Tuesday (Jan. 28). Elson – who apparently works out of a site near 153 Street and Highway 10 – has also agreed to a formal reprimand; to complete “extensive remedial coursework”; and to pay a fine and costs totalling $3,000 in connection with the allegation.

The complainant had alleged that during a massage therapy treatment in March 2019, “she lifted her head and saw that Mr. Elson was holding a mobile phone facing towards her.”

“She alleged that Mr. Elson immediately started to stammer and say “oh, I… um… I’m setting my timer… ya, I can’t remember when we started – do you?” reasons detailed by the College’s inquiry committee state.

“The Complainant became very uncomfortable and was concerned that Mr. Elson was photographing her or taking videos with his mobile phone.”

During the investigation, additional concerns arose, relating to Elson’s “maintenance of professional boundaries with a minor patient, his use of a mobile phone during a subsequent treatment of another individual, and his provision of false information in an interview with a College investigator,” the reasons add.

According to the committee’s findings, Elson admitted to accepting, in April 2018, an invitation from a minor patient to the patient’s video-gaming platform and playing a game with the patient over the platform for two or three hours; and to, in March 2019, providing a treatment to the complainant during which, for approximately five minutes, he used his phone while she was prone on the table. He was subsequently warned by his employer to not bring a cellphone into a treatment room.

Elson admitted, however, that in June 2019, while providing treatment to an undercover investigator from the College, he “massaged her with one hand while using his other hand to hold his mobile phone, on which he read a series of wiki pages for a book called ‘Malazan Book of the Fallen’ for at least 15 minutes of the treatment.”

And, he admitted to similar activities during treatment of other patients, as well as to making false statements to a CMT investigator.

Elson acknowledged the behaviour amounted to professional misconduct, but denied taking photographs or video; no evidence of the latter was found, the committee’s reasons note.

READ MORE: B.C. massage therapist reprimanded, fined for exposing patients’ breasts

Noting his conduct was “serious,” the committee found Elson “was not treating those patients with respect or acting in their best interests, and the effectiveness and safety of his treatments may have been compromised.”

Elson’s five-day suspension continues until Saturday (Feb. 1).

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