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Mandatory reporting, doctors’ health and ethical obligations

Malcolm H Parker
Med J Aust 2011; 194 (4): 205.
Published online: 21 February 2011

To the Editor: Before and since 1 July 2010, when the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme for health practitioners commenced, the claim that mandatory reporting laws will deter impaired doctors from seeking help has frequently been made. It was on the basis of this claim that Western Australia legislated to exempt health professionals from reporting impaired practitioners they are treating. At a recent conference of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, a representative of a medical indemnity organisation labelled the mandatory reporting laws a disgrace because the health of impaired doctors who are deterred from seeking help for this reason would be put at risk. However, she also indicated that the problem was more one of perception than reality because doctors feared triggering a mandatory report automatically if they sought help from another doctor for a perceived impairment.1 It is a problem of perception because, under the laws, only doctors whose impairment places the public at risk of “substantial” harm are required to be reported.2

  • Malcolm H Parker

  • School of Medicine, University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD.

Correspondence: m.parker@uq.edu.au

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