A new study has found that male doctors are four times more likely than their female counterparts to be disciplined for misconduct, and sexual misconduct is the most common reason for disciplinary action.
Lead author Katie Elkin from the School of Population Health at the University of Melbourne said obstetrician, gynaecologists and psychiatrists had the highest rate of disciplinary action, followed by general practitioners.
“This study provides for the first time, an accurate picture of the cases in which tribunals in Australia and New Zealand have found doctors guilty of misconduct,” she said.
“Previously, public perceptions in this area were largely based upon media reporting of particular scandals,” she added.
For the study, the researchers analyzed disciplinary cases before tribunals in five jurisdictions (New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and New Zealand) in 2000-2009.
Sexual misconduct was the primary type of misconduct in 24 per cent of cases handled by tribunals, followed by unethical or illegal prescribing, which accounted for 21 per cent of cases.
Other types of misconduct included missed diagnosis, breach of registration conditions and failure to obtain informed consent.
In 43 per cent of cases, tribunals ruled to remove the doctor from practice.
Of the 485 cases analyzed, eight per cent involved patient death and an additional nine per cent involved physical harm to patients.
The study was published in the Medical Journal of Australia.