British Columbia

Therapist who used phone to read summaries of fantasy novels during massages admits to misconduct

Chris Elson, who practises in Surrey, admitted to lying to investigators from the College of Massage Therapists of B.C.

Chris Elson of Surrey, B.C., barred from having phone in treatment room, suspended for 5 days

Chris Elson admitted that, on more than one occasion, he was reading book summaries on his phone for the majority of time his patients were lying face down. (Robert Short/CBC)

A B.C. registered massage therapist who admitted to using one hand to read book synopses on his phone during appointments has been disciplined by his professional regulator.

Chris Elson, who practises in Surrey, has also admitted lying to investigators from the College of Massage Therapists of B.C., and acknowledged that his actions constitute professional misconduct, according to a public notice on the college website.

He's now permanently barred from having a cellphone or any other similar devices in his treatment room and will be suspended from practice for five days as part of a consent agreement with the college.

The college says Elson's misconduct was serious.

"A patient who sees his or her RMT using a mobile phone while he or she is unclothed during a massage therapy treatment is likely to become distressed and upset," the public notice says.

"In using his mobile phone during treatments of patients, Mr. 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."

Caught in the act — twice

According to the college, the investigation began in response to a complaint from a patient who believed Elson might have been photographing her or taking videos during a massage.

The woman told the college that while she was lying face down on Elson's massage table during a March 2019 appointment, she realized he was only using one hand. When she raised her head, she saw him holding his phone facing toward her, the public notice says.

She alleged that when Elson saw her, he began to stammer, saying "oh, I… um… I'm setting my timer… ya, I can't remember when we started — do you?," according to the college.

During an appointment with an undercover investigator, Elson spent at least 15 minutes reading summaries of the fantasy book series Malazan Book of the Fallen. (Shutterstock)

Elson was warned by his employer not to bring his phone into the treatment room, but that warning apparently had little effect.

When an undercover investigator from the college visited Elson for a massage in June 2019, she discovered that he spent at least 15 minutes of her appointment on his phone reading a series of wiki pages about the fantasy book series Malazan Book of the Fallen.

Elson eventually admitted that, on more than one occasion, he was reading book summaries on his phone for the majority of time his patients were lying face down, the college says. He also made statements to investigators that he later admitted were false.

But Elson denied taking photos or videos of his patients during appointments, and the college says the evidence did not support allegations that he had done so.

Elson's five-day suspension from practice begins Tuesday. He's also consented to receiving a formal reprimand, completing remedial education, paying $3,000 in fines and investigation costs to the college

About the Author

Bethany Lindsay

Journalist

Bethany Lindsay is a B.C. journalist with a focus on the courts, health, science and social justice issues. Questions or news tips? Get in touch at bethany.lindsay@cbc.ca or on Twitter through @bethanylindsay.

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