■ Professionalism and ethics:

Integrating professional duties, societal expectations and personal wellbeing

Repercussions of road rage

Published: November 2022

Type of activity: Text case

Activity summary

This text case describes a scenario in which a physician involved in a "road rage" incident is charged criminally with assault. The facilitation questions and suggestions to faculty encourage learners to consider professionalism beyond the clinical environment.

Case scenario

While driving, a physician was cut off by another vehicle. Both drivers pulled over to the side of the road. The physician accused the other driver of making the physician late for patient rounds at the hospital. A verbal confrontation ensued and blows were exchanged. The other driver suffered facial injuries. The physician was subsequently arrested and charged under the Criminal Code of Canada with assault.

The criminal charges came to the attention of the provincial regulatory authority (College), which commenced an investigation. Based on the findings of the investigation, the matter was referred to the College’s discipline committee for a determination of whether the physician had engaged in conduct unbecoming of a physician. The discipline committee found that, despite a degree of provocation, the response was inappropriate and the physician had engaged in unprofessional conduct. The physician was reprimanded by the College.

Facilitation questions

  1. Discuss why physicians are held to a high standard of professionalism, even in non-clinical communications. Physicians are held to an expectation to be conscientious, dignified, and respectful, whatever the circumstance or setting. This is especially significant when there is a reasonable likelihood that they may be identifiable by the public as a physician.
  2. Is this true for all health professionals or just physicians?
  3. Is this true for medical learners? What do you think could happen to you if you are found to have engaged in unprofessional conduct in a non-clinical situation?
  4. Discuss how activities on social media could impact your reputation and public trust of the medical profession broadly.

Suggestions to faculty

Colleges vary in the information they make public, though many Colleges post on their website physicians who have a finding made against them in a civil legal action related to their medical practice, or a criminal legal proceeding under the Criminal Code of Canada or related legislation.

Have learners identify and share information about their College website, including how their College addresses unprofessional behaviour by its members.

Additional resources

CanMEDS: Professional

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this learning material is for general educational purposes only and is not intended to provide specific professional medical or legal advice, nor to constitute a "standard of care" for Canadian healthcare professionals. The use of CMPA learning resources is subject to the foregoing as well as the CMPA's Terms of Use.