A new study published in BMC Medicine suggests that male doctors are about two-and-a-half times more likely to face legal action than female ones.
The study comes after a rise in the number of legal cases has been brought against doctors across the U.S. in recent years. Between 2008 and 2012, there was a 17% increase in the number of suspended, denied, or revoked medical licenses.
Researchers analyzed the results of 32 studies involving 40,246 cases of medicolegal action representing a global population of 4,054,551 people. They discovered that the likelihood of medicolegal action taken against male doctors was two-and-a-half times greater than it was for female doctors—a fact that has remained consistent for the past 15 years.
Some suggest that male doctors are more likely to experience medico-legal action as there are more practicing male doctors; however, according to researchers, if that was the case, the difference between male and female physicians would have reduced over time as the number of female doctors rose.
Two other potential explanations taken from other studies include male doctors working longer hours than female doctors and male doctors having more interactions with patients than female doctors. According to the study’s lead researcher, Emily Unwin, addressing sex differences in medico-legal action will require a joint effort in the medical industry.
“The medical profession, along with medical regulators, and medical educationalists, now need to work together to identify and understand the underlying causal factors resulting in a sex difference in the experience of medico-legal action, with the aim of better supporting doctors in achieving the standards expected of them, and improving patient care,” concludes Unwin.
Sources for Today’s Article:
Unwin, E., et al., “Sex differences in medico-legal action against doctors: a systematic review and meta-analysis,” BMC Medicine, doi: 10.1186/s12916-015-0413-5, http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/13/172, published online August 12, 2015.
McIntosh, J., “Male doctors more likely to face legal action than female colleagues,” Medical News Today web site, August 13, 2015; http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/298001.php.