Bioethics Blogs

Guest Post: Bullying in Medicine

Written by Christopher Chew

Monash University

Today, the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS), the peak representative organization for the surgical profession in Australia, released the results of the Expert Advisory Group convened to investigate allegations of bullying, harassment, and sexual assault earlier this year.

Shockingly, of nearly half its members  who responded to a survey, including trainees and full members (fellows), a full 49 percent reported that they had been subjected to bullying, discrimination, or sexual harassment. The burden fell disproportionately on junior, female, and minority surgeons, with senior surgeons and consultants being reported as the main source of these issues.

As a graduating medical student and soon-to-be junior doctor, these – and other recent scandals  and revelations about both surgeons and the medical profession at large – fill me with a particularly personal apprehension for my future career.

My very first clinical placement in 2012 was at the Neurosurgery unit at Monash Medical Centre in Melbourne, Australia. It was here in 2006 that Dr. Caroline Tan alleges her senior supervising surgeon, Dr. Chris Xenos, sexually assaulted her, leading to her successful lawsuit and the subsequent comments that lifted the lid on this particular Pandora’s box. It was also here that Dr. Imogen Ibbett, the surgical registrar during my placement, alleges she experienced concerted bullying and mistreatment by another senior surgeon, Dr. Helen Maroulis during 2011-2013, as recounted during a scathing expose by the ABC, Australia’s national broadcaster.

I have not been, fortunately, the subject of anything that even remotely approaches the extreme conduct that has made headlines recently, and this would seem to be true of most of my peers.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.