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Australas Psychiatry. 2006 Sep;14(3):246-50.

The response of doctors to a formal complaint.

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  • 1Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia.



This pilot study investigates the psychological impact on doctors of a complaint to the New South Wales Health Care Complaints Commission and the doctor's perception of legal risk.


Doctors who received a complaint were sent a set of questionnaires embracing psychological variables and their perceptions of legal risk.


The response rate was 60%. Thirty-eight per cent of respondents met screening criteria for psychiatric disorder. There was, however, minimal functional impairment of work, social or family life. Respondents scored highly on altruism, but at the same time were 'tough minded'. The questionnaire to assess the doctor's perception of legal risk appeared to have acceptable construct validity but showed that doctors still misunderstand medico-legal risk.


Psychiatric morbidity rates of our sample were comparable with other Australian medical samples. This small sample appeared to cope with the stress of a complaint better than those reported in other studies.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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