By Quentin McDermott and Karen Michelmore

At Their Mercy

Monday 25th May 2015

At Their Mercy: The bullying and bastardisation of young doctors in our hospitals.

We put our lives in the hands of surgeons, trusting in their professionalism and skill. But what happens in the supercharged atmosphere of an operating theatre or hospital ward can be shocking.

A toxic culture of belittling, bullying and bastardisation is poisoning the lives of young trainee doctors in some of our major teaching hospitals.

“I remember days when I would just go home and just cry, just sit in a dark room and just cry. We’re so vulnerable” Trainee surgeon

In first-hand accounts, young doctors outline an entrenched cycle of abuse where teaching by humiliation is routine.

“In one moment I could just see how this all happens. Someone bullied him, he bullied someone else, and now it’s my turn.”Young doctor

“The worst part was he would do it in front of the patient and the patient’s look of terror when we didn’t know the answer.” Medical student

They talk of verbal abuse and threats and the unwritten rule of medicine: never speak out for fear of reprisal.

And they talk of the terrible toll it takes on their mental health.

“One in five medical students had had thoughts of suicide in the previous 12 months.” Mental health expert

And it’s not just the doctors themselves that are at risk, with medical groups conceding that this behaviour is dangerous for patients too.

At Their Mercy, reported by Quentin McDermott and presented by Kerry O’Brien, goes to air on Monday 25th May at 8.30pm. It is replayed on Tuesday 26th May at 10.00am and Wednesday 27th at midnight. It can also be seen on ABC News 24 on Saturday at 8.00pm, ABC iview and at

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