Dealing with “rogue” medical students: we need a nationally consistent approach based on “case law”

Sarah J Abrahamson
Med J Aust 2009; 190 (8): . || doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2009.tb02510.x
Published online: 20 April 2009

To the Editor: Parker and Wilkinson raised the issue of medical students who behave inappropriately.1 It is likely that the major way medical students cause distress to others is through deliberate, inappropriate behaviour, representing a deficiency in empathy, rather than through laziness or other mental or social problems. In identifying the problem in these individuals, we need to consider whether the impairment is to the cognitive aspects of empathy — knowing how to behave — or to the emotional aspects — caring about the feelings of other people.2 Inappropriate behaviour can result from differing degrees of impairment in either of these domains, and different courses of action need to be considered for those at the extremes of either type of impairment.

  • Ballarat Health Services, Queen Elizabeth Centre, Ballarat, VIC.


  • 1. Parker MH, Wilkinson D. Dealing with “rogue” medical students: we need a nationally consistent approach based on “case law”. Med J Aust 2008; 189: 626-628. <MJA full text>
  • 2. Baron-Cohen S. What is empathizing? In: The essential difference. New York: Basic Books, 2003: 21-28.
  • 3. Douglas C. Dr A will see you now. BMJ 2005; 331: 1211.
  • 4. Oakley B. Evil genes. New York: Prometheus Books, 2008.


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