Disciplining of doctors for professional misconduct in Australia and New Zealand

January 01, 0001

Disciplining of doctors for professional misconduct in Australia and New Zealand

The aim of this study by researchers from Melbourne, Australia was to describe professional discipline cases in Australia and New Zealand in which doctors were found guilty of professional misconduct, and to develop a typology for describing the misconduct. It consisted of a retrospective analysis of disciplinary cases adjudicated in five jurisdictions (New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and New Zealand) in 2000-2009.

The tribunals studied disciplined 485 doctors. Male doctors were disciplined for misconduct at four times the rate of their female colleagues (91 versus 22 cases per 100,000 doctor- years). Obstetrics and gynaecology and psychiatry were the specialties with the highest rates (224 and 178 cases per 100,000 doctor-years). The mean age of disciplined doctors did not differ from that of the general doctor population. The most common types of offences considered as the primary issue were sexual misconduct (24% of cases), illegal or unethical prescribing (21%) and inappropriate medical care (20%). In 78% of cases, the tribunal made no mention of any patient having experienced physical or mental harm as a result of the misconduct. Penalties were severe, with 43% of cases resulting in removal from practice and 37% in restrictions on practice.

The researchers concluded: "Disciplinary cases in Australia and New Zealand have features distinct from those studied internationally. The recent nationalisation of Australia’s medical boards offers new possibilities for tracking and analysing disciplinary cases to improve the safety and quality of health care."

Yes, these findings cannot be extrapolated internationally.

For the full abstract, click here.

MJA 194(9):452-456, 2 May 2011
© The Medical Journal of Australia 2011
Doctors disciplined for professional misconduct in Australia and New Zealand, 2000-2009. Katie J Elkin, Matthew J Spittal, David J Elkin and David M Studdert. Correspondence to Katie J Elkin: [email protected]

Category: Z. Social Problems. Keywords: discipline, doctors, professional misconduct, Australia, New Zealand, retrospective analysis, journal watch.
Synopsis edited by Dr Stephen Wilkinson, Melbourne, Australia. Posted on Global Family Doctor 20 May 2011

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