Friday, 14 December 2012

Increased death rate in lawyers of ethnic minority and men (of any ethnic origin) subject to disciplinary proceedings in UK by Dr Helen Bright

There is some evidence that mortality rates of lawyers of ethnic minority origin are increased following disciplinary proceedings. The difference is about 300% compared to non-ethnic minority groups in UK. The figures have been released from UK 2011 Census showing that 9% of the UK population are from ethnic minority. The figures from Solicitors Regulation Authority show that out of 14 lawyers who died following disciplinary sanctions against them four were from ethnic minority which is about 30%  of the total sample judging by their surnames.

Click on the photograph to see Freedom of Information request
If it is assumed that about half of the solicitors are female then the  finding that the majority of deaths 10 out of 14 are male indicates that male sex is associated with an increased mortality risk following disciplinary proceedings.

It has been known for a long time that men in general population have higher risk of suicide (several fold higher) compared to women in general population. The exact figures for lawyers may not be known.

There are known risk factors for suicides:

* single marital status (including divorced/widowed)
* unemployment
* social deprivation
* history of physical or sexual abuse
* alcohol problems
* social isolation

This indicates the need for protection of vulnerable lawyers in a number of areas which is achievable. While history cannot be changed how it is perceived by the individual can be changed as in cases of lawyers with history of traumatic experiences in childhood such as history of physical and sexual abuse. Lawyers like other people can kill themselves through use of alcohol and other substances. Those who suffered abuse in childhood are at the higher risk of alcohol and substance misuse. Despite many achievements in adulthood people can still have feelings of shame as if they were to blame for what happened to them when they were small. Disciplinary sanctions can tip the balance for vulnerable lawyers and leave fragile self esteem completely shattered.

Unemployment following disciplinary sanctions could be helped by voluntary schemes and also by legal firms offering rehabilitation such as some form of employment in, for example, some administrative capacity.

It is recognized that people who have been victimized may find it difficult to represent themselves i.e. defend themselves and particularly so when there is perception of bias in the tribunal hearings which can be subtle such as manner, tone of voice, body language and so on.

Disciplinary proceedings should be filmed. Legal profession can afford it. I am aware that it is more difficult to appeal disciplinary findings without film evidence because UK High Courts rubber stamp professional disciplinary tribunal decisions claiming they cannot judge determinations of fact because they lack the advantage that tribunal members had such as seeing the manner of the defendant, hearing the tone of voice and being able to observe the body language. What about the manners of the tribunal members?

Psychological damage can be reduced by social/psychological assistance being offered to individuals and their families. Charitable fund could provide some help in that direction.

The suicide rates in prison population in New Zealand is eleven times higher than in their general population. The reasons stated 
have been concerns about access to healthcare, long waiting lists for patients who need to go into psychiatric facilities, poorly-trained staff, a lack of mental health screening, and the use of at-risk units for suicidal inmates.

In UK like in other parts of the world there is a shortage of psychiatrists coupled with poor medical regulation where competent psychiatrists are subjected to the mobbing by for example, religious groups or/and subjected to institutional retaliation. It is very easy to remove the most competent psychiatrist from medical register.

Discrimination against men in psychological/psychiatric services and in general population means that men subjected to disciplinary proceedings may experience social isolation, lack of empathy and additional humiliations.

Other factors may be relevant too such as side effects of any medical treatment they received (for example, cardiac arrhythmia from psychotropic medication) or misuse of such medication.

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