Medico-legal matters cause doctors the most anxiety
INVOLVEMENT in medico-legal processes is one of the biggest predictors of psychiatric morbidity among doctors, Australian research has shown, prompting experts to call for greater education on the issue.
A study of nearly 3000 medical practitioners found that of all work-related factors, dealing with a current medico-legal matter was most associated with psychiatric morbidity – more so than long working hours or lack of holidays.
Lead researcher Dr Louise Nash, psychiatrist at the NSW Institute of Psychiatry, said that given the research also found that 65% of doctors would be involved in medico-legal matters at some point in their career, there should be greater education about medico-legal processes. Such information should be an essential part of professional training, she said.
“We need to have education about medico-legal processes in medical schools and colleges so that when a doctor is going through this, they understand the process, and understand they are not alone,” she said.
Elizabeth van Ekert, risk manager for MDA National, agreed and noted that such anxiety could prompt doctors to change or even avoid certain areas of practice, such as obstetrics.
“Having information and knowing there is support can alleviate some of that anxiety.”
The personality trait of neuroticism carried the highest risk for psychiatric morbidity.