What I told Dr. Oz about America’s doctor suicide crisis

OzPanelBlog

On March 22, 2018 Dr. Oz aired our shocking segment on America’s doctor suicide crisis. He interviews widow Janae Sharp who lost her medical student husband to suicide; reporter Ashley Edwards who covered the recent Mount Sinai suicide cluster; filmmaker Robyn Symon of the Do No Harm documentary that exposes the hidden doctor suicide epidemic; and physician whistleblower Dr. Pamela Wible author of Physician Suicide Letters—Answered.  

Mehmet Oz: Three young doctors jump separately to their deaths in New York City. A prominent surgeon found dead in his apartment with a knife sticking out of his chest. A surgeon accused of sneaking up behind a nurse, choking her with an elastic cord. These are the most recent headlines and stories of a gripping health crisis that’s just beginning to unfold. To be honest I had a pretty hard time emotionally preparing for this because it hits so close to home. Today we’re investigating the hidden epidemic of doctors who snapped. Would you know if the person you trust most with your life is on the brink of taking their own? View Oz TV clip #1

Dr. Oz shared during the show that three of his close physician friends were lost to suicide. Portions of the Do No Harm film trailer were then viewed by the live studio audience and on air.

After Janae shared the tragic loss of her husband John, Dr. Oz asks me to share why so many doctors are killing themselves.

View more national TV segments with Dr. Wible

Mehmet Oz: So the big question no one has been able to answer is why? Why would a doctor who makes an oath to save others take his own life? So I want to bring in someone and through our conversation may be able to answer that question. Doctor Pamela Wible is the leading advocate of Physician Suicide Awareness and the author of Physician Suicide Letters please join us, Doctor Wible. You know first hand what John was going through, if I can share this because you’ve been open about the fact that you were also suicidal at one time. So what happened to you personally? View Oz TV clip #2

Pamela Wible: Well I was depressed and suicidal as a direct result of this profession. I was so unable to function I couldn’t get out of bed for six weeks and I felt like I was in some sort of like a coma. Then I just prayed every night that I could just peacefully die in my sleep (because I’m not a violent person) but I just didn’t want to live anymore and every morning I was horrified to open my eyes and see that I was still here. Like I said, this was 100% work related, my distress.

Mehmet Oz: Part of the reason you all should care about this a lot is because if we can’t take care of ourselves in the medical profession, we can’t take care of you. What kind of a doctor can take care of a patient if they’re suicidal or have lost interest in themselves? So when we come back, are the doctors who are contemplating themselves a hidden danger to others.

Then the set suddenly shifted from the white couch to a panel discussion (& these TV crews move quickly!).

OZ-Wible-Symon-Edwards

Mehmet Oz: We’re back investigating the shocking and invisible epidemic affecting every one of us. Could your doctor snap and take their own life? I’m joined now by Ashley Edwards, Refinery29 reporter who recently uncovered a cluster of suicide deaths in one New York hospital. Doctor Pamela Wible, leading advocate for physician suicide awareness, and author of Physician Suicide Letters—Answered; and Robyn Symon, a documentarian who’s been investigating this. Her latest project is Do No Harm that’s the clip that you just saw. So Ashley let me start with you, you became aware of this after a close friend committed suicide. You began to research this as a reporter. You realized it was much more widespread than any of us appreciated.

Ashley Edwards: Absolutely. So my friend Deelshad she actually died by suicide at her hospital. Just doing a quick Google search, I found that two years prior or the year before a resident committed suicide at the same hospital. The very same building and that same year also a medical student jumped from that same building. So that’s three women in the space of two years.

Mehmet Oz: To the point that I think is being made by all of us, if patients did that we would be beside ourselves. How widespread Pamela is this? You actually have numbers, you looked at 757 reports, is that true?

Pamela Wible: That’s true and there is more and more that come in every day. I have close to 800 now on my list.

Mehmet Oz: Suicides?

Pamela Wible: These are families that contact me telling me their husband died by suicide. I mean I’m in touch with so many widows of physicians who have died by suicide, I’m now leading retreats with widows because there’s just so many families left behind just trying to put the pieces back to their life. It’s a huge crisis.

Apply for free suicide widows retreats

Mehmet Oz: You have a couple of letters, if you don’t mind, just to hear. This is directly from, these are suicide notes.

Pamela Wible: These are suicide notes and sometimes suicide notes that are left behind are just kind of quick apologies, but these are actual letters that were sent to me by physicians who were deciding whether to live or die. They were debating the pros and cons, and they reached out to me as a last ditch effort to see what to do. Just a few quotes. “I’m in my first year of practice and I can’t begin to tell you how often I think of death. Not because I hate my life, I have a wonderful husband and family. But the pressures of daily life as a doctor are overwhelming.”

Mehmet Oz: It’s heart breaking, especially because they don’t think they can talk to anybody. Ironically as a doctor you’re taught to listen to others but you can’t talk yourself. Robyn you’ve been investigating this growing problem, do you think these are being covered up these suicides?

Robyn Symon: Well Doctor Oz patients don’t want to do a hospital where doctors are jumping from the roof, or taking their lives. Also it’s covered up because as you know being the physician, the doctors themselves it’s such a taboo. Doctors are supposed to be superheroes, so if you show signs of weakness well there’s something very wrong with you. So it’s systemic but it’s also personal.

Mehmet Oz: My hope in doing this show is that we can actually stop making suicide medicine’s devastating secret, because it is right now. There was a headline recently about a doctor who snapped and took a cord around a nurses neck. How much of a danger are the people around the doctors facing, when the doctors themselves are at this level of despair?

Pamela Wible: I actually think we’re all at risk from this because in that case he’s a surgeon trying to help his patient and there was a nursing medication error, and he just over reacted, obviously. I don’t condone his behavior, however let’s look at all the people who really need help. We have frustrated, angry physicians in every hospital that are surgeons who need help. We have the patient who’s there, who had the medication error, who needs help. We have the nurse who was assaulted, who needs help. We also have all these suicidal doctors, so I think what we need to do is just stand back and look at the system that breeds an environment in which these people are pitted against one another so that no healing can take place for really anyone. [Update: Further investigation reveals that this surgeon did not strangle this nurse].

Mehmet Oz: That’s probably the big take away.

Ashley Edwards: To Pamela’s point, all the doctors I spoke to said that the competitiveness, working nonstop hours, is taking a toll on their life. One girl I spoke to said, she performed major surgery on a patient after not sleeping for 20 hours straight. If you think about patient care, having an over worked, depressed doctor, what does that mean for your health, and the hospital system?

Mehmet Oz: That’s the real danger, and again in our profession it’s one of us, but it’s the many lives that we touch. That’s why I think we can do better with this. We’re going to put more resources on this topic online, I want people to read it, share it with the people that are taking care of you. Doctors, nurses, everyone in the health care system, you’d be surprised how much help is required out there. You guys can be the agents of change. We’ll be right back.

Filmmaker Robyn Symon explains why she began investigating physician suicides and and how you can start a dialogue with your own doctor. View Oz TV clip #3

To screen the film, contact filmmaker here

What I’ve learned from my tally of 757 doctor suicides (Washington Post)

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7 comments on “What I told Dr. Oz about America’s doctor suicide crisis
  1. James Kenyon says:

    It seems to me that Dr. Wible has discovered a part of this ongoing problem in that many of the Doctors are overworked and stressed out because their title of Dr. implies that they are supposed to be superhuman, able to cure anything instantly! and we’re not able to do these things, we’re just human beings who need our naps and rest too. I have a lot of respect for Dr. Wible and also for Dr. OZ who I listen to quite often and who I’ve recently gained an special connection when I learned his mother was Turkish. I now look forward to getting into contact with Dr. OZ as I have some other information that may shed some light on this ongoing problem. Thank Dr. Wible for all the work you do, James M. Kenyon

  2. Pam, I am so glad to see this getting national attention! Healthcare professionals- all of us- are subject to the stresses and toxic work environments of the healthcare industry. Until we all band together and insist on no more, we won’t see change. We need to get this issue front and center. Everyone is a patient in this system. I’m going to be speaking at the nurses’ rally for safe staffing, Nurses Take DC, on April 26 in Washington and will be addressing this issue when I speak. All of us working directly with patients and charged with their care and safety must be willing to work together to change this culture. Thank you for your persistence.

    • Sg says:

      This is a cover up for all of the dead doctors that spoke out of the dangers of vaccinations. All those doctors are said to have died by suicide. See youtube video, dead doctors don’t lie

    • Paul says:

      Glad to see your post, as many nurses along with doctors do try to do a good job, but often they are told to do things that are often not good enough. Also they are given wrong information, and this has many problems as well.

      Just because most patients do not understand what is being said and done, does not make that true for everyone. One of the many things about suicide that is overlooked, and that is people only consider it when it is better than the alternatives in the way they can see the current problems. Someone does not need to be mentally ill to commit suicide or think about it. This is something that far too many can’t get a grip on and do live in a fantacy world where there are simple answers to all of lifes many complicated problems. Quite often the only simple solution is suicide and that is why it is becomming one of the leading causes of death in many nations.

      I don’t think for a minute that those with chronic pain and other conditions “accidently” kill themselves with an overdose. They do it because they can no longer tolerate the pain and are unable to get any relief. That is the thing about pain be it mental or physical if it goes on long enough without some quiet time where they do not feel it. Then it is just a matter of time before they snap, and do something drastic to end the pain. Call it temporary insanity if you must, but it is a normal reaction. Normal enough for animals to end their lives and yet they are unable to even talk our language.

      The problem with Doctor suicides and all suicides for that fact is that they are all preventable, but they are not preventable in the current political climate where people are held to the same standards as God’s that have. Also other beings that are said to exist but only exist in the imagination of people. Want to stop it, the first thing is to start treating ALL people as human, and not label people as a nut case if they see things based on what they are going through just because others in charge do not feel the same way.

      I wish you and others a bright future, and if all of us are going to work to solve this major problem and others. It requires all people have a say, and none of the statements be disregarded for any reason. All the needs of all need to be met, and just because someone that is experiencing something and the other people around them are not able to see it does not make that something that is not real. It was once thought that an infection due to one of the many sources known today was caused by demons (or vengeful Gods). In a way this is true, and it is all a matter of perspective. That is because to the unaided eye we can’t see a virus or even most bacteria, same for many parasites. That does not make them not real, just something that is real but unseen.

      Many things in modern medicine are not visible directly to the human eye, as we can’t see the difference between water and most other clear liquids in a tube, but that does not make all of them water just because they have the color of water. Also one last point Psychology is the latest of a long list of religions that people follow. If something is not making sense due to what is assumed it is a psychological problem, even if it did not start that way. That is because far too many are looking to the simple answer when one refuses to see the real cause.

  3. Donna burden says:

    We need to look after our doctors more. It’s so sad reading these stories. There needs to be counselling alongside the medical profession to help doctors. Also doctor rotas need changing to allow for sleeping, eating and living.

  4. Pamela Wible MD says:

    I begged Dr Oz show not to ask me the question about the nurse that accused a surgeon of choking her with an elastic cord. They insisted. I answered the best I could trying to protect this surgeon without all the facts. Thankfully he received justice and was acquitted of this false accusation. So very upsetting that he was treated as guilty before proven innocent and dragged through the media like this. Why all the doctor bashing on TV when I’m trying to generate empathy for these hardworking humanitarians?

    http://longisland.news12.com/clip/14141333/charges-dropped-against-numc-surgeon-accused-of-choking-nurse

  5. Paul says:

    It is a VERY bad situation when people these days are forced to go to the doctor to get things taken care of that used to be done by the patient and their family.

    In every line of work where the risk is high, usually people work few hours and are well paid for those few hours so mistakes will not happen. Why is this different in medicine? The only thought that comes to my mind is that money is more important than the lives of people.

    I know that many doctors are overworked and not thinking, as they do not listen to or check my medical history before making decisions and then prescribing me the wrong medication, or even properly diagnosing my problems. It is so bad where I live that for me to even stay alive and for my wife to stay alive that I double check all the medications, and also have to doctor shop just to find doctors to threat things such as my asthma, injuries from an attack at work that have left me not able to fully function mentally (but still more functional than many doctors that I have seen in the last 8 months). I now have vision problems from the attack and now I can only read with one eye, but that is better than doctors that do not read at all and make mistakes.

    I firmly believe that doctors should not work more than 6 hours a day, as they need time to rest to function normally just like everyone else. Also working at a level where the mind is in survival mode and not scientist mode is a danger to all people in this country. As I could see that my life was in possible danger when I went in for surgery last year, and told my wife that I might not be back, and let her know where all my life insurance information is and so forth. I could see that all were on drugs of one kind or another. I can see this because due to chronic conditions I am taking a few different medications, and know when others are from the conditioned responses.

    As a result of much that I have seen, I really do not hold much hope for society. That is because we are so conditioned to accepting the lies and seeing them as the truth in the world around us. That when someone such as myself points out something that others do not see right in front of them, they are often shaken or worse.

    I don’t know what these doctors are going through but I can guess based on my experience of being physically attacked and having my life threatened by my former boss, as this is the reason I do not have a full time job, and even if I were able to work full time in the future not sure that I would want one due to the bad experiences on my last job working under someone with a doctorate.

    Everyone needs their own private time, and their job should not own them, and they should not feel owned by the hospital or anyone else, as that makes them feel less than human. I know that there are many that will read what I am saying and not understand, but that is only because they have decided to act in a prejudiced manner against me and what I am saying, instead of looking at the facts of the world around them. Just as said in the article how can we trust someone with our life when they are unable to take care of their own? I know about the medical field out of curiosity and necessary. That is because I know from the way my body is acting wen I have an infection of some kind, and this is more accurate than any medical person can do without running tests. Tests that used to be standard procedure, but were eliminated to cut costs. I don’t need any doctor saying that they see nothing wrong when they have done NO tests, and I have an inner ear infection or sinus infection that could quite easily lead to a brain infection and then death. Also I get lung infections that could be called chronic bronchitis and do quickly become pneumonia when left untreated for a week. If I trusted doctors the way they look at things today near where I live chances are I would be dead.

    Also one thing if someone asks me if I am suicidal I tell them truthfully that if I wanted to kill myself all I need to do is trust the doctors around here where I live that refuse to write down my allergies to medications.

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