Background: The identification of health care professionals who are incompetent, impaired, exploitative or have criminal intent is important for public safety. It is unclear whether psychiatrists are more likely to commit medical misconduct offences than non-psychiatrists, and if the nature of these offences is different.
Aim: The aim of this study was to compare the characteristics of psychiatrists disciplined in Canada and the nature of their offences and disciplinary sentences for the ten years from 2000 through 2009 to other physicians disciplined during that timeframe.
Methods: Utilizing a retrospective cohort design, we constructed a database of all physicians disciplined by provincial licensing authorities in Canada for the ten years from 2000 through 2009. Demographic variables and information on type of misconduct violation and penalty imposed were also collected for each physician disciplined. We compared psychiatrists to non-psychiatrists for the various outcomes.
Results: There were 82 (14%) psychiatrists of 606 physicians disciplined in Canada in the ten years from 2000 through 2009, double the national proportion of psychiatrists. Of those disciplined psychiatrists, 8 (9.6%) were women compared to 29% in the national cohort. A total of 5 (6%) psychiatrists committed at least two separate offenses, accounting for approximately 11% of the total violations. A higher proportion of psychiatrists were disciplined for sexual misconduct (OR 3.62 [95% Confidence Interval [CI] 2.45-5.34]), fraudulent behavior (OR 2.32 [95% CI 1.20-4.40]) and unprofessional conduct (OR 3.1 [95% CI 1.95-4.95]). As a result, psychiatrists had between 1.85-4.35 greater risk of having disciplinary penalties in almost all categories in comparison to other physicians.
Conclusion: Psychiatrists differ from non-psychiatrist physicians in the prevalence and nature of medical misconduct. Efforts to decrease medical misconduct by psychiatrists need to be conducted and systematically evaluated.