Vol. 16 No. 1 (2024): Mental Health & Wellbeing

Sexual Misconduct in the Health Services: Tip of the Iceberg

Rajinder Singh
Manchester University Foundation Trust

Published 2024-03-06


  • Surgery,
  • Sexual Harassment,
  • Misogyny

How to Cite

Singh, R. (2024). Sexual Misconduct in the Health Services: Tip of the Iceberg. Sushruta Journal of Health Policy & Opinion, 16(1). https://doi.org/10.38192/16.1.8


Medicine has been long considered a noble profession. Nobility in medicine is not obsolete; the selflessness, courage, self-sacrifice, and altruism on gallant display in the response to COVID-19 reassure that at its core, this ethic of egalitarian service remains intact and deeply established in the DNA of physicians worldwide.1 However, a rising rate of reported sexual misconduct in the UK NHS is putting both vulnerable patients and learners at risk of long-term physical and mental harm.2 Sexual misconduct is not only devastating for the victims, but by making the workplace unsafe for women, perpetrators make the workplace unsafe for patients.


  1. Yancy, C. W. Academic Medicine and Black Lives Matter: Time for Deep Listening. JAMA 324, 435–436 (2020).
  2. Luepker, E. T. Effects of Practitioners’ Sexual Misconduct: A Follow-Up Study. J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 27, (1999).
  3. Bagenal, J. & Baxter, N. Sexual misconduct in medicine must end. The Lancet 399, 1030–1032 (2022).
  4. Torjesen, I. & Waters, A. Medical colleges and unions call for inquiry over “shocking” levels of sexual assault in the NHS. BMJ 381, p1105 (2023).
  5. Ali, N., Butt, J. & Phillips, M. Improving responses to the sexual abuse of Black, Asian and minority ethnic children.
  6. King, P. A., Chaudhry, H. J. & Staz, M. L. State Medical Board Recommendations for Stronger Approaches to Sexual Misconduct by Physicians. JAMA 325, 1609–1610 (2021).
  7. Espinoza, M. & Hsiehchen, D. Characteristics of Faculty Accused of Academic Sexual Misconduct in the Biomedical and Health Sciences. JAMA 323, 1503–1505 (2020).
  8. Bismark, M. M. et al. Sexual misconduct by health professionals in Australia, 2011–2016: a retrospective analysis of notifications to health regulators. Med. J. Aust. 213, 218–224 (2020).
  9. McMurray, R. J. et al. Sexual Misconduct in the Practice of Medicine. JAMA 266, 2741–2745 (1991).
  10. Sindhu, K. K., Schaffer, A. C., Cohen, I. G., Allensworth, R. H. & Adashi, E. Y. Honoring the public trust: curbing the bane of physician sexual misconduct. J. Law Biosci. 9, lsac007 (2022).
  11. Mathews, B. & Bismark, M. M. Sexual harassment in the medical profession: legal and ethical responsibilities. Med. J. Aust. 203, 189–192 (2015).
  12. Dowling, T. & Steele, S. Is sexual misconduct training sufficient in the UK’s medical schools: Results of a cross-sectional survey and opportunities for improvement. JRSM Open 14, 20542704231198732 (2023).
  13. Gallagher, C. T. et al. Disciplinary Action Against UK Health Professionals for Sexual Misconduct: A Matter of Reputational Damage or Public Safety? J. Med. Regul. 107, 7–16 (2022).
  14. Wolfe, S., Worth, M., Dreyfus, S. & Brown, A. J. Breaking the Silence: Strengths and Weaknesses in G20 Whistleblower Protection Laws. https://apo.org.au/node/41246 (2014).
  15. Providing anonymity to those accused of rape: An assessment of evidence.
  16. Whistleblowing In The Lucy Letby Case | Hatton James Legal. https://www.hattonjameslegal.co.uk/whistleblowing-in-the-lucy-letby-case/ (2023).
  17. Hill, K. A. et al. Assessment of the Prevalence of Medical Student Mistreatment by Sex, Race/Ethnicity, and Sexual Orientation. JAMA Intern. Med. 180, 653–665 (2020).
  18. McClain, T., Kammer-Kerwick, M., Wood, L., Temple, J. R. & Busch-Armendariz, N. Sexual Harassment Among Medical Students: Prevalence, Prediction, and Correlated Outcomes. Workplace Health Saf. 69, 257–267 (2021).
  19. Täuber, S., Loyens, K., Oertelt-Prigione, S. & Kubbe, I. Harassment as a consequence and cause of inequality in academia: A narrative review. eClinicalMedicine 49, (2022).
  20. Bull, A., Calvert-Lee, G. & Page, T. Discrimination in the complaints process: introducing the sector guidance to address staff sexual misconduct in UK higher education. Perspect. Policy Pract. High. Educ. 25, 72–77 (2021).
  21. Charaka, A. Rashmi Tiwari & Nitesh Gupta: Ancient Medical Ethics And Present Scenario. 4, (2016).
  22. Choudhary, A. The fully equipped physician: An ancient Indian competency framework. J. Fam. Med. Prim. Care 12, 4–9 (2023).
  23. Robinson, G. E. & Stewart, D. E. A curriculum on physician-patient sexual misconduct and teacher-learner mistreatment. Part 1: content. CMAJ Can. Med. Assoc. J. 154, 643–649 (1996).