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Not so innocent bystanders

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It’s time for all of us to accept responsibility

“The standard you walk past is the standard you are prepared to accept.” With this wake-up call in June 2013, Lieutenant General David Morrison challenged all those serving in the Australian Army to take responsibility for the culture and reputation of the army and the environment in which they work.1 He made this call in response to an emerging scandal of sexual abuse and harassment in the army. At the 2015 Australian Medical Association national conference in May, James Lawler, President of the Australian Medical Students’ Association, named bullying, harassment, sexual harassment and their mental health as the biggest problems affecting medical students.2 He explained that he could not tell his peers to take a stand against the perpetrators because “the hierarchy is too high and too strong”. Quoting David Morrison, he called on those present to help change the culture of medicine.

Discrimination, bullying and sexual harassment are illegal and breach both published and implicit codes of ethics and professional standards in medicine.3 Yet they are prevalent in medicine and health care, not only in Australia, but in many other countries and cultures and in other professions, notably law.4 Both men and women perpetrate this…