Personality, gender and medico-legal matters in medical practice

Louise Nash*, Michele Daly, Maree Johnson, Carissa Coulston, Chris Tennant, Elizabeth van Ekert, Garry Walter, Simon Willcock, Merrilyn Walton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-24
Number of pages6
JournalAustralasian Psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Doctors
  • General practitioners
  • Medico-legal matters
  • Personality


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