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.