The characteristics of Australian doctors with medical negligence claims: a prospective cohort analysis of the MABEL survey.

Dr Owen Bradfield1

1University Of Melbourne, Australia

Objective: To assess the demographic, vocational and psychosocial predictors of medical negligence claims in Australia.

Design, setting: Prospective cohort study of Australian doctors.

Participants: Doctors who completed the MABEL survey between 2013 and 2019.

Major outcome measures: Medical practitioners named as a defendant in a medical negligence claim in the preceding 12 months.

Results: 649 of 12,134 doctors (5.35%) reported being named in a medical negligence claim during the study period. In addition to demographic factors (sex, age and speciality), we identified the following risk factors for medical negligence claims: working fulltime (OR = 1.48, 95% CI 1.13-1.94) or overtime hours (OR 1.70, 95% CI 1.29-2.23), working in a regional centre (OR 1.69, 95% 1.37-2.08), increasing job demands (OR 1.04, 95% CI 1.01-1.08), low self-rated happiness (OR 1.43, 95% 1.08-1.91) and recent serious personal injury or illness (OR 1.40, 95% CI 1.13-1.72). Having an agreeable personality was mildly protective (OR 0.95, 95% CI 0.93 to 0.99).

Conclusions: Modifiable risk factors contribute to an increased risk of medical negligence claims among doctors in Australia. Interventions aimed at improving the health and occupational wellbeing of doctors may reduce the risk of medical negligence claims and may indirectly contribute to improved patient safety.


Dr Bradfield is a medical practitioner, health lawyer and experienced statutory decision-maker, who aspires to solve complex dilemmas at the intersection of medicine, ethics and the law. A graduate of Monash University’s pioneering Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery and Bachelor of Laws double degree programme with First Class Honours, he combines clinical practice and public health law research at the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health with sessional appointments to the Suitability Panel and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Ethics Committees. He is also Chairperson of Victoria’s Patient Review Panel.

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