Are euphemisms killing physicians?

Pamela Wible Euphemisms Kill

A euphemism is a vague and indirect expression substituted for a fact to avoid something unpleasant or embarrassing.

Each year more than one million Americans lose their doctors to suicide. Across the country, our doctors are jumping from hospital rooftops, overdosing in call rooms, found hanging in hospital chapels. It’s medicine’s dirty secret. And it’s covered up by our hospitals, clinics, and medical schools—often with euphemisms.

That’s not science. It’s deception.

Though suicides may be investigated, we rarely learn the truth. No follow-up articles. Autopsy reports never revealed. So how can we solve a medical condition that’s actively hidden by our own medical institutions? We can’t.

To date, I’ve compiled 265 cases of physician and medical student suicides. Here’s how some suicides are actually reported by medicine and the media to the public:

      Euphemisms to cover up doctor suicides

  • Doctor passed away unexpectedly in his sleep.
  • Doctor found dead in hospital. Declared non-suspicious. 
  • Doctor’s death an inconvenience for patients.
  • His light went out too soon.
  • Medical student passed into eternity.
  • Doctor found dead on interstate. No foul play.
  • Doctor died by “accidental overdose.” (unlikely—doctors dose drugs for a living)
  • Doctor died suddenly.
  • She passed away peacefully at home.
  • He went to be with the Lord.

Words matter. When we hide the truth, we prevent the collection of data and the implementation of strategies to prevent suicides. Hiding behind misleading phrases that obscure diagnoses will never prevent suicide. So what can we all do now?

Here’s an idea—Let’s tell the truth.

Pamela Wible, M.D., is a family physician, truth seeker, and activist in physician suicide prevention.

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