Medicolegal impact on doctors’ health – Tracy Pickett

Facing a complaint, litigation or a disciplinary hearing can be one of the most stressful events a medical practitioner may encounter during their career. And yet, despite the personal and professional impact of a claim or complaint, some practitioners pretend that it does not affect them at all. In this opening discussion there was a discussion about how to recognise the impacts of a claim or complaint and how to manage them.

The impact of a medicolegal complaint can be profound. There has been a steady increase in professional claims, the claimant does not need to provide any evidence to make these claims. Combined with an increase in Medicare complaints, doctors are feeling vulnerable. The sickening feeling of making a mistake, being investigated and the investigation extending over many years, is death by a thousand cuts, having to repeat events that are deeply regretted. These complaints and investigations are stressful, have a negative impact on finances and professional reputation. Frequently doctors do not confide in anyone. They do not want to involve their family, they say nothing at home or work, they become withdrawn and irritable, and this puts stress on the family and their workplace. Some doctors cease practicing medicine and there is an increased suicide risk with claims.

If you do find that you are subject to a medicolegal complaint, then you are not alone. Reach out for help, do not go it alone, even when mistakes are made, if disclosed and steps are made to address it is likely to have a better outcome. Talk to your peers, most will have had a claim, do not hide it. If an event occurs, write down all your recollections, ask your lawyer to explain the situation. Control the claim, participate, work with your lawyer. Do not be at the mercy of the system. Ideally, there should be more education, at all levels of training and practice, about what to do if there is a complaint against you. One of the dehumanising aspects of medicine is that the doctors’ personal identity gets bound up with their role. This needs to change. Medicine is what you do, not who you are

About Tracy Pickett

Tracy Pickett is a Medico-Legal Advisor and in that role is responsible for responding to member calls to Avant’s Medico-legal Advisory Service. Tracy provides members with prompt practical responses to their medicolegal questions. As a member of this advisory team, Tracy is kept abreast of signficant developments in the Australian medico-legal environment.

Tracy has gained extensive experience in relation to medico-legal complaint management and litigation over more than 20 years. In 2020 she was voted by her peers in the category of Leading Queensland Defendant Medical Negligence Lawyers as one of two pre-eminent practitioners in Queensland.

Tracy has acted for the health professionals indemnified by most of the major Australian medical defence organisations, as well as Queensland Health. As a result, she has a keen awareness of the needs of Avant’s members and seeks to provide prompt, effective and pro-active solutions to their widely varied medico-legal concerns.

Tracy is actively involved in Brisbane’s medico-legal community. She is the immediate past president of the MedicoLegal Society of Queensland and she is a committee member for the Uniting Care Health Human Research Ethics Committee. Tracy is also a member for the steering committee for HEAL, the Queensland Chapter of the Australasian Association of Bioethics and Health Law.

Tracy is a former director of the Queensland Doctors’ Health Programme, and remains committed to supporting the wellbeing of health professionals in Queensland

Tracy Pickett

DHQ wishes to thank our sponsors:

Avant Mutual by doctors for doctors