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Doctors more likely to be deregistered for character flaws

Doctors are more likely to be banned from practice for having a sexual relationship with a patient than for misdiagnosing, breaching patient confidentiality or performing a wrong operation, according to a study by researchers at The University of Melbourne. They have found that Australian and New Zealand medical tribunals tend to deregister or remove doctors for character flaws and lack of insight rather than for errors in care or poor clinical knowledge.

16 Sep 2012

Doctors are more likely to be banned from practice for having a sexual relationship with a patient than for misdiagnosing, breaching patient confidentiality or performing a wrong operation, according to a study by researchers at The University of Melbourne.

They have found that Australian and New Zealand medical tribunals tend to deregister or remove doctors for character flaws and lack of insight rather than for errors in care or poor clinical knowledge.

They analysed 485 population misconduct cases over 10 years in Australia and New Zealand in which doctors were found guilty. Of the 79 cases in which doctors were guilty of a sexual relationship with a patient, 64 were removed from practice.

While the study found that it was more common for doctors to be found guilty for inappropriate or inadequate treatment, those doctors were less likely to be removed from practice.

The researchers suggested that this might be the case as “dysfunctional behaviours and clear signs of bad character may be perceived as relatively untreatable”, while a lack of knowledge or problems in the work environment might seem easier to correct.

The researchers said that tribunals tended to dismiss the idea that patient consent had any weight, given the doctor/patient power imbalance.

KW


Published: 16 Sep 2012