Over 90% of top medical professionals experience abusive behaviour at work - study

Included among the complaints were those from anti-vaccine campaigners and 5G conspiracy theorists.
Over 90% of top medical professionals experience abusive behaviour at work - study
The study found that almost 70% of participants had experienced persistent harassment while around 6% reported experiences of physical violence and intimidation. Picture: File photo

More than 90% of top medical professionals have experienced abusive behaviour while working.

The DCU study co-authored by the late cervical cancer vaccine advocate Laura Brennan found that some cases involved physical abuse, harassment and intimidation.

Included among the complaints were those from anti-vaccine campaigners and 5G conspiracy theorists.

Co-author Dr Robert Grimes says disinformation about science has increased markedly in the era of social media.

"It is incredibly common, ubiquitous in fact, to get abuse, smears, threats or threats to your job and livelihood if you are engaging in things that are contentious," said Dr Grimes.

"Now that does not mean scientifically contentious. For example, vaccination scientifically is generally considered a good thing but if there is a strong feeling against it, it is very easy for people now to organise online against you."

Dr Grimes said that the type of abuse experienced ranges from abusive behaviour online to people trying to get healthcare workers fired to smear campaigns to threats of violence.

The span of it is quite staggering.

The study found that almost 70% of participants had experienced persistent harassment while around 6% reported experiences of physical violence and intimidation.

Just under 20% had to seek police advice or legal counsel and 62% reported negative mental health as a result of abusive behaviour from the public including depression, anxiety and stress.

Around 39% had received distressing complaints to their employers, professional bodies or legal intimidation.

Of these, one third reported neutral, poor or non-existent support from their employer/professional body.

The study concluded that while physicians and scientists play a vital role in combatting health disinformation, it is also vital that those doing so have the requisite support from their institutions.

Laura Brennan, who died from cervical cancer last year, was a high profile advocate for the HPV vaccine.

Dr Grimes, says she was targeted because of this.

"The genesis for this idea was actually when I was down in Clare with Laura and we were discussing the abuse that she was getting and a lot of the HPV vaccine advocates around the world at the time were getting an awful lot of abuse.

"I think that particular week someone had tried to get me fired, someone had threatened someone else and Laura had endured a huge amount of abuse herself."

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