Medical negligence claims and the health and life satisfaction of Australian doctors: a prospective cohort analysis of the MABEL survey

Owen M. Bradfield, Marie Bismark, Anthony Scott, Matthew Spittal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Objective To assess the association between medical negligence claims and doctors' self-rated health and life satisfaction. Design Prospective cohort study. Participants Registered doctors practising in Australia who participated in waves 4 to 11 of the Medicine in Australia: Balancing Employment and Life (MABEL) longitudinal survey between 2011 and 2018. Primary and secondary outcome measures Self-rated health and self-rated life satisfaction. Results Of the 15 105 doctors in the study, 885 reported being named in a medical negligence claim. Fixed-effects linear regression analysis showed that both self-rated health and self-rated life satisfaction declined for all doctors over the course of the MABEL survey, with no association between wave and being sued. However, being sued was not associated with any additional declines in self-rated health (coef.=-0.02, 95% CI-0.06 to 0.02, p=0.39) or self-rated life satisfaction (coef.=-0.01, 95% CI-0.08 to 0.07, p=0.91) after controlling for a range of job factors. Instead, we found that working conditions and job satisfaction were the strongest predictors of self-rated health and self-rated life satisfaction in sued doctors. In analyses restricted to doctors who were sued, we observed no changes in self-rated health (p=0.99) or self-rated life satisfaction (p=0.59) in the years immediately following a claim. Conclusions In contrast to prior overseas cross-sectional survey studies, we show that medical negligence claims do not adversely affect the well-being of doctors in Australia when adjusting for time trends and previously established covariates. This may be because: (1) prior studies failed to adequately address issues of causation and confounding; or (2) legal processes governing medical negligence claims in Australia cause less distress compared with those in other jurisdictions. Our findings suggest that the interaction between medical negligence claims and poor doctors' health is more complex than revealed through previous studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere059447
Number of pages8
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 19 May 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Health
  • Health policy
  • Medical law
  • Mental health
  • Public health
  • Quality in health care
  • Safety

Cite this