Personality, gender and medico-legal matters in medical practice

Australas Psychiatry. 2009 Feb;17(1):19-24. doi: 10.1080/10398560802085359.


Objectives: The aim of this paper was to explore the relationship between the personality traits of Australian General Practitioners (GPs) and their gender, work practice arrangements, and history of medico-legal matters.

Methods: A cross-sectional self report survey was mailed to 1239 GPs. There were 566 respondents (45.7% response rate to survey). The survey assessed personality traits (using the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire), demographic and practice information, and history of medico-legal matters with any medical defence organization. The number and type of medico-legal matters was also extracted from the UNITED Medical Protection database.

Results: Male respondents had significantly higher psychoticism scores than females (p<0.001), and females had significantly higher neuroticism scores than males (p<0.01), as in community samples. However, for GPs who worked more than 48 hours per week, there were no gender differences in personality trait scores. Solo practitioners and non-solo practitioners did not differ on personality scores. Proceduralists and non-proceduralists did not differ on personality scores. However, a higher proportion of proceduralists experienced a medico-legal matter than non-proceduralists (p<0.001). There was a positive correlation between extraversion scores and doctors who attended peer review (p<0.001). There was no difference in the numbers of medico-legal matters for doctors who attended peer review. Males who self reported a medico-legal matter had higher neuroticism scores than the males who did not report medico-legal matters. This was not the case for females. For males, this pattern was not replicated when considering data from UNITED.

Conclusions: The known demographic and practice factors that differ for doctors having a medico-legal matter are replicated here--being male, a proceduralist and working longer hours. There is not a consistent pattern regarding personality traits and medico-legal matters.

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Character*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Liability / statistics & numerical data
  • Malpractice* / statistics & numerical data
  • Neurotic Disorders / diagnosis
  • Neurotic Disorders / epidemiology
  • Neurotic Disorders / psychology
  • Personality Inventory / statistics & numerical data
  • Physicians, Family / psychology*
  • Physicians, Family / statistics & numerical data
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*
  • Psychometrics
  • Psychotic Disorders / diagnosis
  • Psychotic Disorders / epidemiology
  • Psychotic Disorders / psychology
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Specialization / statistics & numerical data
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Work Schedule Tolerance / psychology