Intended for healthcare professionals


Medicolegal aspects of working while unwell

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 10 December 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h6721
  1. Marika Davies, medicolegal adviser
  1. 1Medical Protection Society
  1. marika.davies{at}

Marika Davies outlines doctors’ obligations when they are unwell

Many doctors continue to work when they are not feeling their best and take pride in the fact that in doing so they avoid letting down patients and colleagues. But those who do so when they are seriously unwell can put patients at risk of harm and may further damage their own health and career.

A doctor’s ill health can have a negative effect on performance and team functioning. Concentration and decision making ability may be diminished, increasing the risk of adverse incidents. Doctors can often underestimate the anxiety that their illness …

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