Participant information


Sexual abuse of doctors by doctors: a narrative study into sexual abuse in the medical workplace

Principal Investigator: Dr Louise Stone

Research Site: Academic Unit of General Practice, ANU Medical School, Canberra Hospital

 This is the participant information sheet for this study. Recruitment is currently closed, but we are considering extending the study if we are able to fund it. If you are interested in the study, please contact Louise at

Before you decide whether or not you wish to participate in this study, it is important for you to understand why the research is being done and what it will involve. Please take the time to read the following information carefully and discuss it with others if you wish.

  1. What is the purpose of this study?

You are invited to take part in a research study about sexual abuse of doctors by doctors. The purpose of this study is to better understand the experience of doctors who have been sexually abused by colleagues, so we can prevent abuse and care for doctors who have experienced this sort of trauma more effectively. By sexual abuse, we mean any sexual act or unwanted sexual comments or advances involving coercion. Coercion can include psychological intimidation or threats, or physical force. The aims of the study are to:

  • Explore how doctors make sense of their experience.
  • Explore the impact the experience has had on their personal and professional lives.
  • Develop guidelines for therapy.
  • Develop policies to prevent further abuse.
  • Challenge the culture that allows the abuse to occur.
  1. Why have I been invited to participate in this study?

You have been invited to participate in this study because you responded to the advertisement for this study and completed the online eligibility questionnaire at Participation in this research study is entirely voluntary

By giving consent to take part in this study you are confirming that you:

  • Have read and understood the information provided.
  • Agree to take part in the research study as outlined below.
  • Agree to the use of your personal information as described.
  1. What if I don’t want to take part in this study or if I want to withdraw later?

Being in this study is completely voluntary and you do not have to take part. Your decision whether to participate or not will in no way affect your current or future relationship with the researchers or anyone else at ACT Health or ANU. It will also not affect your relationship with the organisations who advertised the study (eg the RACGP, ACRRM, AMA etc).

If you decide to take part in the study and then change your mind later, you are free to withdraw. If you withdraw up to 6 weeks after your interview your entire transcript will be deleted from the analysis. If you withdraw your consent after this time, any quotes from your interview will be removed from the study. This is only possible before we publish the results. You can withdraw your consent by sending an email to Dr Louise Stone:

You are free to stop the interview at any time. You may refuse to answer any questions that you do not wish to answer during the interview.

  1. What does this study involve?

If you choose to participate, you will have a 10-20 minute initial phone interview with Dr Louise Stone, to help you decide whether you want to proceed. 10-15 participants will then be selected to undertake a research interview. The research interview will be up to 90-120 minutes long. Reviewing your transcripts may involve an additional hour of reading if you choose to do this. Overall, the study involves 3-4 hours in total.

All interviews will be undertaken with Dr Louise Stone. Louise is a GP with a research and clinical interest in mental health. She will discuss the study in detail over the phone before the interview. You will have the choice to do the interview face to face or over skype. If you want to be completely anonymous, you can use a pseudonym, and do your interview over Skype with audio only. If you choose to participate in a detailed face to face interview, you can decide where and when you would like the interview to be held.

This is a narrative study, so we are interested in your story: not just the events around the abuse, but also what it meant for you in your personal and professional life. The interview will not follow a set series of questions, but will be a conversation where you and Louise “unpack” your story in detail. After the interview, with your permission, Louise will share the transcript of the interview with you so you can add comments, or clarify your story. At the conclusion of the study, Louise will forward a one page summary of the study findings to you. You can choose not to receive further information at any time.

  1. How is this study being paid for?

The study has been funded by individuals and organisations interested in the well-being of doctors. Details of organisations involved are available on

  1. Are there risks to me in taking part in this study?

It is likely that being interviewed may raise difficult feelings for you. There are risks you may become distressed or angry, and the interview may trigger memories that you had forgotten. These negative feelings can be uncomfortable, but many participants in other studies on sensitive topics have found the process of being interviewed has helped them understand their situation more clearly. We will do everything we can to minimise this discomfort during the interview. Dr Louise Stone will clarify any concerns you may have about these risks in the initial telephone conversation so you are able to decide whether you are able and willing to participate. You are also free to stop the interview at any time if the interview becomes too distressing.

We cannot guarantee or promise that you will receive any direct benefits from being in the study. However, it is hoped this study will inform therapeutic strategies to help other doctors who have experienced abuse.

All aspects of the study, including the results, will be strictly confidential and only the researchers will have access to information on participants. The only exceptions are required by law. Exceptions are: (1) if you say you might harm yourself or someone else, (2) if you share information about children you know are being abused or neglected (3) if you are intoxicated at work, or impaired and you have placed the public at risk of substantial harm because of your impairment[1] (4) if you share information that might be of material assistance in securing the apprehension, or the prosecution or conviction of someone who has committed a serious crime and you confirm that you have not told the police.

The requirement for the researcher to report these crimes is only applicable in NSW, where there is legislation against concealing “serious indictable offences” from the police.[2] This would be likely to be crimes (such as sexual assault) committed against you. However, the researchers wish to respect your right to make decisions about the reporting of such events. They will stop the interview and caution you if you begin to disclose the identity of any person who has committed a criminal offence for which you or others known to you have not been previously apprehended, charged or convicted. If you wish to discuss these offences, pseudonyms should be used for individuals and organisations involved.

  1. What if something goes wrong?

The Doctor’s Health Advisory Service, a national, free, confidential, 24 hour telephone service that is staffed by senior doctors experienced in doctors’ health, has agreed to support participants. They will be available to help you if you become distressed after the interview is over. You will also be provided with the contact details for other agencies and services who may support you if you need to seek further help.

  1. Who is organising and funding the research?

This study is being conducted by the study team headed by Dr Louise Stone. The study is being funded by donations from individuals and organisations. Details about funding of the study are available at ofdoctorsbydoctors. com

No investigator or member of research staff will receive a personal financial benefit from your involvement in this study. The study doctors declare no personal conflict of interest relevant to the undertaking of this study.

  1. How will my confidentiality be protected?

Dr Louise Stone, as principal investigator, will know whether or not you are participating in this study. Any identifiable information that is collected about you in connection with this study will remain confidential and will be disclosed only with your permission, or except as required by law. Only the Only Dr Stone and senior researchers will have access to your details and results. The results will be held securely at ANU Medical School.

Data will be stored for a minimum of 5 years from the date of first publication. The audio recording of the interviews will be destroyed after they are transcribed. Your transcript will include pseudonyms: all identifying data will be removed. Electronic data will be stored on the ANU Medical School Academic Unit of General Practice secure computer system accessible by senior staff in the Unit. Data from this study will not be used for other research projects.

By providing your consent, you are agreeing to us collecting personal information about you for the purposes of this research study. Your information will only be used for the purposes outlined in this Participant Information Statement, unless you consent otherwise. Information will be stored securely and your identity/information will only be disclosed with your permission, except as required by law.

  1. What happens with the results?

Study findings may be published, but you will not be identified in these publications. The data collected from this study will be published in peer reviewed journals, presented at relevant conferences and prepared in one page summaries for organisations responsible for policy around this issue and treatment.

You have a right to receive feedback about the overall results of this study. You can tell us that you wish to receive feedback at the conclusion of the interview. You will receive an email once the transcript has been prepared asking if you wish to receive a copy, and inviting you to comment. At the conclusion of the study, Dr Louise Stone will send a one page summary of the study findings for you to keep if you indicate you wish to receive feedback.

  1. What happens to me when the study is finished?

After the study ends, you may still access advice through the Doctor’s Health Advisory Service. Decisions about any continuing care will be made in consultation between you and your treating health professional.

  1. What should I do if I want to discuss this study further before I decide?

When you have read this information, Dr Louise Stone will be available to discuss it with you further and answer any questions you may have. If you would like to know more at any stage during the study, please feel free to contact Dr Louise Stone, clinical senior lecturer, Academic Unit of General Practice, ANU Medical School ( or 0432409974).

  1. Complaints and compensation

If you suffer any injuries or complications as a result of this research project, you should contact the study team ( or 0432409974) as soon as possible and you will be assisted with arranging appropriate medical treatment.

  1. Who should I contact if I have concerns about the conduct of this study?

This study has been approved by the ACT Health Human Research Ethics Committee. If you have any concerns or complaints about the conduct of this study, and do not feel comfortable discussing this with study staff, you may contact the Committee secretariat who is nominated to receive complaints about research projects. You should contact the secretariat on 6174 7968 or

  1. Where can I find further information about the study?

Further information about the study and the research team can be found on the study website at

Thank you for taking the time to consider this study.

If you wish to take part, you will be given a Consent Form to sign 

You can download a printable copy of this information here: Participation Information Sheet


[1] AHPRA Guidelines for Mandatory Notifications

[2] Section 316(1) of the Crimes Act (NSW)).