Forensic aspects of medical student abuse: a Canadian perspective.

K. J. Margittai, R. Moscarello and M. F. Rossi,
Bull. Amer. Acad. Psychiatry & the Law 24(3): 377-85, 1996.
The mistreatment and consequences of mistreatment involving medical students have only recently been recognized and studied. This article reports on the nature, frequency, and sequelae of "abuse" that is prohibited by the Criminal Code of Canada, as experienced by fourth year medical students. A 160-item, multiple choice questionnaire, the Medical Student Abuse Survey (MSAS), was administered on a voluntary and anonymous basis in February 1992 and 1993 at the University of Toronto (Canada) Faculty of Medicine. All students enrolled in their fourth year (n = 500) were eligible. Of those present when the survey was administered (n = 415), 72.5 percent (301 of 415) responded. Of all respondents, 8.3 percent (25 of 301) experienced either threats of bodily harm, assault, or assault with a weapon; 12.6 percent (38 of 301) experienced physical sexual advances; four students experienced both. Perpetrators were most often clinicians in a surgical setting. Only about one-third of these students (21 of 59) complained to someone in a position of authority within the medical school, and no one reported these incidents to the police. There is a need within medical training programs to disseminate a "code of conduct" to all parties, familiarize students with complaint procedures, and improve the identification and rehabilitation of perpetrators. The lack of objective measures for verifying students' experiences of abuse remains a limitation of this study.