Physicians experience the highest suicide rate of any profession. I’ve been investigating doctor suicides for more than 5 years. What began as a personal quest to discover why so many of my physician friends had died by suicide has now become an international inquiry and full-time job. Here’s what I’ve learned from my first 757 cases. I’ve now amassed 952 doctor suicides on my registry and anesthesiologists remain in the lead with the highest suicide rate among all doctors.
Thankfully two courageous anesthesiologists have stepped forward to address depression and suicide within their hospital. Both were forced out of their jobs. One has filed a lawsuit.
Dr. Michael Shaughnessy—an exemplary anesthesiologist much beloved by staff and students at Duke University—was wrongfully terminated in 2017 as retaliation for his objections to disability and sex discrimination in the Department of Anesthesia.
After the suicide of a second-year female anesthesiology resident (June 2016), Dr. Shaughnessy and others complained about the “insensitive response” and “stubborn refusal” to support those with mental health disabilities and the widespread discrimination against many female anesthesiologists in the department,” according to a federal lawsuit.
Yet the official stance of the Department Chair was that they held no liability in the Resident’s suicide. Many faculty, visibly upset, felt the focus should instead be helping staff experiencing depression and grief after the sudden death of their colleague.
Faculty member, Dr. Cheryl Jones met with surviving residents to offer her support—at which point faculty were warned they were “not permitted to gather with residents without the approval” of the Program Director. Furthermore, Dr. Jones was prohibited from organizing a candlelight vigil to mourn the Resident who had died.
“After being blocked from organizing a vigil, Dr. Jones attempted to distribute a book, Physician Suicide Letters Answered, to assist her grieving residents and was physically obstructed by her superiors. The books were stolen from the hospital where she placed them and banned from the department. In August 2016, I received the following email from Dr. Cheryl Jones:
I had previously written you about the death of one of our residents in the anesthesia department. I had mentioned another death [confirmed suicide] of a former internal medicine resident who had just started his fellowship.
I also want to let you know that our department is doing their best to continue the culture of shaming and secrecy around physician suicide. We are not allowed to talk about what happened. We have not had any sort of service to honor our own grief. We have been given various excuses for the lack thereof.
I had also purchased 6 copies of your book for my residents. I had not distributed them but had told a few about their presence. Please see the department-wide email that I sent last week. The departmental administration should be ashamed of themselves. Please share this information as you see fit.
Dr. Cheryl Jones
Download Free Audiobook Physician Suicide Letters—Answered
Subject: Book on Physician Suicide
I have purchased a few books about physician suicide by Pamela Wible, M.D. I have had them for the better part of a month and have not sent a notice that I had them available for anyone. I was refused reimbursement from the department as this was considered to be a personal expense (for 6 books). I had previously purchased books on wellness and had been able to cover them through the department.
On Monday I was summoned to the office of the division chief. I had assumed that I was to be informed as to why the books were not eligible for funds. Instead I was informed by the executive vice chair that “the department did not want me to distribute these books to the residents.” At that time I also discovered that the division chief had stolen these books from the anesthesia workroom where I had placed them on the shelf. Since I have now recovered them I am making them available for anyone that is interested.
Dr. Cheryl Jones
Physician suicide book banned, stolen from hospital (original 2016 blog)
Dr. Shaughnessy was concerned about the mistreatment of Dr. Jones who resigned from Duke Anesthesia faculty it is believed as a result of harassment and retaliation.
During a subsequent meeting held by the Department Chair to prepare for resident application season, he expressed his “disdain for Dr. Jones and her disability and attributed her actions to mental illness” and told those in attendance to inform applicants that “the Resident had committed suicide because she had a drug problem.” They were not to mention her depression.
Dr. Shaughnessy objected to the mischaracterization of the Resident and mistreatment of Dr. Jones and then shared his own “struggle with depression.” Weeks later the Vice Chair warned him not to “rile up the troops” and told him he “could count on sabotaged letters of reference” and “blacklisting” from further employment upon nonrenewal of his contract. He was then terminated for “less than optimum professionalism” and “not being team-oriented.”
In United States District Court, Michael Shaughnessy vs. Duke now alleges discrimination (and retaliation) under the ADA, hostile work environment based on disability, retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and wrongful termination in violation of North Carolina Public Policy—all actions taken with malice or reckless indifference to Dr. Shaughnessy’s rights. Read 24-page court document.
Yet harassment at Duke is not limited to the Department of Anesthesia as confirmed in a letter (published with permission) from a physician friend:
“A pediatrics resident at Duke took his life several months before graduating from residency. It was a horrible tragedy that had a profound impact on the psyche of all of us residents. Unfortunately, as residents we were completely silenced and the whole tragedy was swept under the rug. I was speaking with 2 other resident colleagues after the incident and said “something isn’t right here.” Within 30 minutes I was called into my program director’s office. There were 4 doctor administrators sitting behind a desk with legal pads and pens. They demanded that I sit down and share anything on my mind and furiously scribbled notes as I spoke. Tears streamed down my face and their cold stares persisted as they took notes. I can barely remember what happened because I was so scared and their intimidation and bullying tactics paralyzed me. The end result: I was immediately forced to go to psychiatric services to be “cleared” so I could report back to clinic that same day and finish seeing patients. I thought I moved on but these visions still haunt me, years later. Some memories can never be erased and linger on in your soul.”
Yet harassment is not limited to Duke; it is widespread throughout medical education in our nation’s most prestigious teaching hospitals as indicated by just a few of the letters in the book that the Department of Anesthesia didn’t want their residents to read:
Hello Dr. Wible, I’m a surgery resident in New York. I began my residency in California and during that time was very depressed due to abuse within my training program. My depression impacted my performance and I was eventually fired. I was lucky enough to find another position and continue my training. However, some days I feel my depression and despair returning—primarily when I feel my career has been irreparably damaged by my departure from my first residency program. Those feelings were initially tied to hazing and bullying that are an integral part of the educational program there. . . I am reaching out to you for two reasons: I’m interested in eradicating the abuse in medical education. I’d like to have a career in academics and to influence policy regarding the treatment of trainees. More importantly, can you help me make the flashbacks stop? Can you help me not worry so much about my future? Can you help me with my depression related to my change in career trajectory? Thank you for your work! ~ Lisa
Pamela, When I share what happens in our academic medical center with my non-medical friends, they are astonished and disbelieving. The level of bullying in my institution is amazing, including a faculty member seriously suggesting that a resident’s mistake was so heinous that he should “off ” himself. ~ Vicky
Dr. Wible, I was dismissed from medical school in the beginning of my fourth year because I had a medical condition that didn’t help the school’s “technical standards.” I suffered abuse my entire third year from residents and physicians telling me that I wasn’t fit to be in medicine, that if I knew what was good for me I would just drop out. My school told me that being sick was akin to being unprofessional, and that I should give up my dreams of wanting to become a physician. They pulled me into their administrative office several times to harass me, and eventually told me that I was dismissed. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t breathe. If I hadn’t called my parents immediately and spoken to them, I don’t know what I would have done because only the worst was running through my head at that time. Medical schools need to be more attuned to their students’ needs and psyches before treating them like slaves or robots with no regard for human emotion. ~ Sarah
Pamela, In anesthesiology, it seems we have a higher percentage of death by suicide than other medical specialties. My colleague took his own life over a year ago. I was basically okay until then, but it’s how everyone reacted that really got me. The show must go on. We diverted patients the first night, probably because the ER had to see Joe when he came in. The next day all of us were back at work in the operating room. There was no time to grieve and we in the department were so stunned we did not know what we needed and what to ask for. It felt like abuse to not honor him or his colleagues with some rescheduling of operations. I will never be the same. I no longer see medicine as a force for good. It seems like it is a way for other people to make money off our talent, intelligence, education, or determination. He was my friend! ~ Bruce
Pamela, I lost another colleague and friend to suicide two weeks ago. As he was an anesthesiologist and I am an obstetrician, I saw him every day and had no clue that he was in such a state of despair. How can we recognize others in trouble? ~ Elizabeth
Dear Pamela, I suspect that you would be hard-pressed to find one of us who isn’t at least sometimes suicidal. We’re just not allowed to admit it as it would end our careers. ~ James
Sometimes I’m accused of harping on the problem of physician suicide without offering real actionable solutions.
I’ve extensively outlined primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention strategies that could be implemented for no or low-cost way back in 2014. In fact, I presented these simple solutions in Washington DC at the American Academy of Family Physicians Convention and published my recommendations in an article that became the #1 most-read and commented piece in the history of Medscape—Physician Suicide 101: Secrets, Lies & Solutions.
Four years later, I’m not asking for any special rights. What I’m suggesting is that doctors are afforded the same protections by the ADA, OSHA, HIPPA, and labor laws that all other Americans enjoy—including their First Amendment constitutional rights to free speech and to peaceably assemble to mourn the death of a colleague with a candlelight vigil.
Just extend those basic laws to include doctors. Then punish institutions that violate the human rights of their physicians.
If you or your colleagues have been the victims of human rights abuses in medicine, now would be a great time to file a class action lawsuit. Contact me if you need a good attorney. I’ve already got one lined up for you.
View movie trailer forthcoming documentary exposing the physician suicide crisis
I commend you, I’m am not a physician but a ADN Rn. I Applaud you.
Thank you Judy. It’s gonna take a village. Please share the Do No Harm documentary trailer: http://donoharmfilm.com
At what point is it recognized that Duke is so toxic to human life that they just set up an exclusion zone? Like for a nuclear disaster…
Duke Medical Center
Wow. Hazmat suits & therapists needed onsite before any more body bags.
These stories are so sad. I never knew doctors treated other doctors this way, until recently. I am related to someone who helps orchestrate such treatment. They seem to believe that it is a relatively inexpensive way to get rid of certain employees, less expensive than firing them, or paying for their expenses. It also sends a message that they should not badmouth the company, else things will get even worse.
How is it that such criminal activity is allowed to happen, and that most people in the general public never hear of these things? These are serious issues, and they need more attention amongst society.
Where can patients who are being blacklisted go for help, for major medical care? The medical boards and patient liasons are no help. Attorneys will take years to settle a case, but that does not get urgent medical care, surgery. Where does one go when the head blacklister, who hospitals consult for such advice is in your family and targeting you?
First step to understanding this is to see the documentary: Do No Harm: Exposing the Hippocratic Hoax
Not even a statement was published by loma Linda for Dr Sahar Shah. These institutions should be criminally investigated by Medicare and Feds.
When I work in cath lab I have to observe the last bit mg of versed to be discarded. How the hell Hospitals don’t have a mechanism to account for lethal doses of medicines to be taken away by resident for alleged suicide!!!!!
Ana Nicole Smith gets glorified by media for overdosing her prescription narcotics but no body talks about the messiahs who get killed by these institutions negligence !!!
Oh you are so right. The freedom to tap into unused meds (or take meds in hospital for patients) and self-administer to one’s own death. Such a risk for anesthesiologists who are so often left in harm’s way with hostile working conditions. We need legal protection and help. Are you familiar with the case of Janet Christophel? She had an addiction and they let her back in the OR with access to lethal means.
In 2011, New York Presbyterian Hospital anesthesiology resident, Dr. Janet Christophel, committed suicide via an intravenously used drug called Propofol. Propofol’s uses extend from inducing and maintaining general anesthesia to, among other things, procedural sedation. It is highly addictive and known to be a drug of choice to those working in and around operating rooms.
Before Dr. Chrisopthel’s suicide, she participated in a six-week drug rehabilitation program for her substance abuse issue. After finishing the program, Dr. Christophel was allowed to return to work, which provided her with ample exposure to Propofal, at this point in time a known cause of concern for the hospital. Having just been released from rehabilitation a mere two months prior, it may not have come as a surprise that Dr. Christophel made the decision to resign after being admitted back to work at New York Presbyterian. What did come as a surprise, however, was her suicide the very next day following her announcing her intention to resign.
Thank you for posting the link to Dr. Christophel’s case. Time for systemic change and for class action suits.
That is flat out evil. Same as putting babies in cages. Evil.
Agree 100%. And the predictable result from lack of health care and bullying in meded. We become at times our own abusers. It’s a cycle of abuse. Thankfully, doctors are stepping forward to stop the oppression of themselves and their colleagues.
Concie and to the point.
And this from supposed healers?! They are shameful for their lack of compassion.
I am a current Duke patient. I passed on to my urologist a couple of months ago, all I had about Dr. Wible’s outreach. I explained how concerned I was for any doctor who might be suffering silently, and to please send “this” contact information along to them if you think he or she needs help but is afraid to talk to anyone at work.
I was looked at like I was bat s–t crazy, but I don’t care about that. What I do care about is knowing that my doctor views me as a credible person, and just may take me seriously and pass your info along.
Lastly, and these administrators are treating the best of the best (the most compassionate of people who feel a calling AND go through the MOST lengthy education of any people on earth to heal people!) like the worst of the worst, straight to the grave. Truly, this is what it is.
This is the culture of these so-called leaders, teachers, administrators? These people beating others to mental and physical death, those other people who have to take care of me and help ME Live?!
All I can say is
THANK YOU DR. WIBLE! Like I said, I’m just a patient. But I do have great respect for human beings, especially suffering onesie.
Youa re not “just a patient.” You are obviously a very caring compassionate and brave person. Keep shining your light and sharing your love with your doctors and all health care workers. Random acts of kindness and compassion may save lives. It WILL take a village to change this toxic medical culture. Please view and share the documentary film trailer (and will let you know when it comes to NC): Do No Harm film trailer
Thank you, Pamela. I wish I could think of a stronger term than “OUTRAGE” to reflect these medical administration reactions.
Common sighting of the word “Rapid” or “Priority” in contemporary culture and in no scarce frequency in settings around the world, are applicable to everything from pizza, car wash, mail, 2nd language study, meal delivery, tax preparation, insurance quotation, etc.
Similar framing is so urgently needed for – safety, treatment and nonjudgmental mindset – directed to depression.
Given a chance to express something to those stigmatized and mistreated, I would like to say how terribly sorry I am for what they encountered in 360 radius, first, and, second, thank you for being so heroic. You stand under that categorization for your courage demonstrated to all of us, truly as a day is envisioned by Pamela and so many others when this will no longer exist as tolerated treatment of one life by another. You are at the front lines in manifesting this so valuable change.
Outrage is the proper term as well as the comment a few back with the curse word.
I am a UK doctor. This is really shocking. I have not had time yet to more than glance at this, but I will read it thoroughly and share widely. My impression is that this is about doctors in the US? If so, do you have any information on this subject for the UK? All doctors should work together. Only doctors know how difficult a doctor’s job can be.
I do have many UK doctors on my suicide registry though most of these stories are coming to me from USA. I would be very curious about working conditions and the state of medical education overseas as well. Do share more of your experiences when able. I know doctors suffer equally from vicarious trauma and on-the-job PTSD. Not sure whether the educational environments are as bad or worse. That being said there are some more progressive schools that are really trying to change the old guard ways.
Absolutely disgusting! I always loved Duke. It puts out so many fantastic classes etc. To hear this broke my heart. The poor doctors! This is why it continues, because they is no back up for those who suffer depression and other mental illnesses. I work in Psychiatry and without compassion I couldn’t do my job. When people feel supported, even in trying times, they can overcome these hurdles but when they have to live in secrecy as if it is a shameful thing is it any wonder this keeps happening? What happened to “first do no harm”? Don’t we count too?
Collaboration and kindness would go a long way. It’s the backstabbing, competitive culture of distrust in medicine that kills the spirits and then the lives of our doctors as indicated in this very telling letter I received & published: Medical student: “I was less stressed in Afghanistan”
WHat shocks me in these incidents – is the organization/dept’s unwillingness to have any semblance of post-intervention for affected workers such as grief counseling/memorial service/vigil/etc. HOw very ironic – I recall when I was in OB anesthesia we had an otherwise healthy mom who had a sudden death (unpreventable). In that case the hospital brought in professional grief counselors and had an all day event – which was all very good and useful. But a doctor’s sudden death? To actively prohibit and block a memorial service? ABhorent
Especially when chaplains are available and on site. It’s not like the resources and staff don’t already exist INSIDE the hospital. Unreal the inhumanity.
Hi, Pamela, I am so glad that you are doing the work you are doing. It is tragic for the Institute of Medicine to deny these grievances, to remain obstinately stuck in denial. And yet the truth that we are all having to face is that Change though inevitable is blocked because egos MUST remain secure; the OLD boys ways MUST continue to rule. Especially now with the leadership in such a complete state of becoming CHIEF OSTRICH OF THE WORLD and taking our whole country down with him.
I just want you to know that I support you and encourage what you are doing. I have myself spent that past few years grieving the loss of medicine that I knew. You and I had spoken a few years ago when I was thoroughly bamboozled and depressed by the direction medicine was going in. I began medical studies at Ohio State University in 1959. Burnout in physicians continues to be high; and although the Amer. Psychiatric Assn has been addressing physician burn-out in the past year, I believe that though the admin of APA means well, they are missing the point of what you and I and other physicians are feeling: and that is PHYSICIANS DON’T MATTER; WHAT WE FEEL AND SEE AND HAVE TO PUT UP WITH DOESN’T MEAN A THING TO THOSE IN CHARGE. And like the two physicians that are in your report today, the administration does everything in its power to deny that doctors are human; we deserve to be treated with kindness and trust and respect. From what you are bringing to other people’s attention at long last is the cover-up. Why do we cover this tragedy up? To reassure ourselves that we are doing a “great job”? That we are immune to feelings, to tragedy, to listening to pain? That we have to remain impenetrable?
As I said earlier, I support your work and encourage you. Take us seriously and in doing so perhaps we will begin to take ourselves seriously and stand up for our rights.
Marilyn Matthews MD
I have been struggling for more than a decade with many medical problems that have not properly been treated, and the way that doctors are treated is a good indication of why this is.
First of all I have not been trained as a medical doctor, but feel very uneasy about many doctors as they refuse to do what I used to think were normal procedures when I was growing up in the 60’s and 70’s. Now days the things that once were common such as cultures to determine what is the cause of infection are almost unheard of, and even getting the safest and most effective medications are quite often the most difficult. That is given that quite often such medications are usually the least expensive.
Also one of the worst things is the requirement of heath coverage, when the doctors that are under such plans are not willing to often even address what I and others have even show up for a first visit for in the first place. I often do not know who a doctor is talking to when it is me and a doctor in a room. That is because they are rarely talking to me, but some imaginary person. That is because they refuse to hear much of (if anything that I say).
Please keep in mind I am not saying that there are a bunch of bad doctors, but a bunch of bad doctors that are open for new patients. Also I am thinking that most of them are either told to do things that are not in the best interest of patients, or told not to do things that are most helpful to the overall heath of people in the long term.
Quite often I see the only things that act logically are the devices that are often used to replace people, and even they do not function what most would consider normally, as they are not programmed to function in the best ways possible.
I know that the many Religions teach that people are important, and that life is precious for the most part, yet that is not how the overall world works. So much of the things that I consider as what I enjoy and consider as what is important are not seen as such by so many that I do not want a child of mine to suffer though all of the inhumanity of humanity that I have no children. Perhaps that is the best choice of the many that I have made in my life. That is because we live in a world that is not conducive to life in our society, and also does not promote an enjoyable life for all.
As far as depression, the main thing that I find depressing is how people are treated overall by those that are in control of many things. I know that doctors start off looking to help people when they are starting to take college classes. I was at a point in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s that I could have gone into medicine instead of engineering. I know that engineering by the time that I was finished with my degree was a bad choice that I had made once I was nearing completion of my degree. That is because the jobs are not there, and those jobs that do exist do not pay enough to make my effort worthwhile. Perhaps this is the same for medicine and all of the rest of the many fields of study. Perhaps the best choice of all would have to never studied at all, and instead become a monk. That is because this world is more about controlling others and profiting and using others and yet not paying them according to the efforts that they put forward into effective progress.
Many claim that we are made in God’s image, and all of the possible ways that this could be true. Even if that image is: That of a creator of new things, those in the control places in society are often against life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They want to blame people for being human, and often refuse to take responsibility for the actions that happen as a result of their actions. This says that they are worse than a poor manager, but a manager that is not even working to even their own best interest. When those that are managers are so bad at handling the truth that they have to resort to lies and more, there are obviously far too many that are decision makers that are in the wrong job. As such they are going to cause the destruction of all around us and them included.
I remind people of the story of Oedipus Tyrannus or Oedipus the King, and even though this is a very old story. There is much truth in it. Nothing good can become of anything that is wrong to begin with. If a King or any other leader is not good, they will lead to the destruction of all around them. Problem is that there are few good rulers to begin with, as few can even take care of their own affairs, and that should be telling as a key factor.
There are some that are great at choosing others for tasks that they are best suited for, and not looking at only profit. Even though profit is always the motive even in medicine. Most are not aware of this fact. Also one of the key things about mental illness is that they are not aware of the reality of the world around them. That is, the majority if not all people suffer from some form of mental illness, as what most think is normal and what they assume that all others are able to do are often not the truth. This alone means that they are not aware of the world around them and in effect mentally ill. What we get with a system running with the mentally ill in charge is one that is not long for this world, same as the old Greek play that I previously mentioned.
I am not outraged. We reap what we sow. What more proof does one need in order to understand that the activities of secularist “doctors” are not in accord with the laws that govern the human soul? They kill themselves because they are God-forsaken and demon possessed for committing horrible crimes on patients. Examples are: videoing and photographing incapacitated or sedated patients they exposed in the operating room without informed consent including minors then widely publishing and distributing the vile material, homicidal organ harvesting, obvious opportunistic lewd misconduct, lying and other treacheries upon the vulnerable. They are paying for their enormous sins and Divine Providence assures us that everyone receives their just deserts even in this short life. If they only adhered to basic aspects of the natural law and it is summed up by Most Holy Family Monastery and theologians as: “do not do unto others, as you would not wish to endure” then there wouldn’t be massive spiritual illnesses and suicides among the “doctors” of the secularist ‘faith.’ Also, no “hospital” has any obligation to sponsor secular religion grieving rituals and “vigils” on their property, or to babysit staggering epic hypocrites who demand to be treated well while they lasciviously mistreat patients etc and murder them. It is not possible for fair minded people to empathize with tremendous evil. When tremendous evil leaves this world it is something welcomed. If Hitler scraped his elbow after slipping on a wet tiled floor it would be consummate unreasonableness to cry or feel sorry for him.
I am a retired Licensed Clinical Psychologist. My wife and I have two adult children who are physicians with specialties in Anesthesiology and in Physiatry. For a long time I have observed, discussed and treated mental health problems arising within the medical profession (like many other professions). But the current decay of integrity within Duke Uiversity’s Medical School staff is truly unsettling to me. I imagine that I suffer the halo effect here: Believing that Duke could not fail in this way.
Ive noticed that it only takes a few people in leadership positions to set the tone for the entire organization. Positive or negative. I also believe most people who pursue health care are humanitarians with a high ethical code of behavior. It only takes a few bad apples as they say . . .
Pamela — thank you so much for what you are doing. I forwarded your article about censorship of Physician Suicides and lack of basic human rights. When I was a 4th year medical student at Ohio State, my lab partner suicided. We had a 5 minute meeting. Then back to the wards. I started crying on the wards. The team looked at me as if I were crazy….I went to the nurses lounge where a medical assistant prayed with me. I went back about 30 minutes later. I was not excused for the day
Regarding Duke, my (former, thank God!) large academic medical center had about ten years where they hired faculty according to how prestigious their schools of origin were, and we mole people developed an attitude about a few schools, of which Duke was one (Nixon’s alma mater, that should say a lot!) Duke, Penn, Emory, NYU/Langone and a few others produced faculty who, when they moved here, were disappointed they didn’t get better jobs but had allowed themselves to be seduced by money. They were already disappointed that their education wasn’t quite the top level, and now they felt as though our trainees were beneath them. It was noticeable, and I bet that 90% of our faculty/trainee angst came from that group. A quick sample was one large male faculty member telling a tiny female that she should floss her teeth with her cunt hair. Another one, a female surgeon, told a resident who had made an error that what he did was so bad he should go home and kill himself (in a text! which is still being forwarded 5+ years later. he didn’t, happy to say, and got over shame to be proud of his mistreatment). Disappointment + arrogance = mean bullying (and yes, I know that’s redundant).
I’m absolutely stunned by this. That text should be turned over to the authorities. Time for justice to be served.
I invite you to consider the context of education today. Until 50+ years ago education was understood to come from Athens (knowledge of the mind) and Jerusalem (knowledge of the heart). Athens got 95% of the formal curriculum time, and Jerusalem got 5% of the formal curriculum time. And a life giving ethos coursed through the school. Life and death were subjects discussed at a deeper level. Spiritual formation was implied if not even accepted by some, the outcome of which was a greater spiritual and emotional resiliency. Then we turned progressive and dismissed the classical approach that also dealt with the great books of the western world, and education became simply information transfer. Then in Medical School that approach intensifies. Under such a regimen this kind of outcome is tragically to be expected at a rate that could be reduced with a better educational approach.
Are you looking for a better educational approach?
feel such deep gratitude for your work. As I read this post, I thought of you as the
scalpel excising a deep malignancy in the medical world. I am humbled by the magnitude of
the challenge you’ve taken on, deeply honored by your courage and committment, and celebrating
your success! The entire world will benefit when you close the sutures…
I think taking too much pressure and depression are the two main reasons behind these suicide in a this specific profession.Anyhow you have written a very indepth analysis on this topic.
I had to force myself to continue reading this expose on censoring doctor suicides – the information was so raw and heinous. My family lives in the Durham area and they use Duke healthcare resources. Is there something that we can do to support change (letters? calls? other?)?
Yes, Please write or call the hospital CEO or others in admin. Write a letter to the editor of local newspaper. Submit as breaking news to your local TV. Media & legal pressure needed to break the cycle of abuse.
As a patient, human being and mother of a physician, I thank you for shining a light on this issue. Thank you for sharing the truth — the numbers speak for themselves. I had no idea this was even an issue until I saw the trailer for Do No Harm. Hopefully public education and knowledge will lead to change. No one should have to work under such horrid conditions. It really is shameful and heart breaking that people working in HEALTH CARE are treated this way! Thank you for your work, Dr. Wible.
I’m very concerned for my niece who begins medical school this fall. Although we aren’t close, I know she tends to be anxious and have high expectations of herself. What can our family do to support her in achieving her dream with sacrificing her sanity?
1) Read this and follow the advice: https://www.idealmedicalcare.org/medical-school-has-killed-my-soul-what-can-i-do/
2) Get her a massage therapist or someone she can see each week or two (so she does not isolate and so she will take care of herself)
3) Keep open lines of communication at all costs.
4) Send care packages frequently.
5) Give her my contact info. I’m always happy to talk to anyone with mental health issues in medicine.
I was gaslighted and ultimately wrongfully terminated from my position with a supposedly ‘premier’ private practice group contracted to a major hospital system in the southeast. After being put on unpaid leave and told to seek anger management therapy, all 3 therapists, without consulting one another, told me I had severe depression and reported their findings to my group. At the review meeting after my unpaid leave, I was fired. I sought legal counsel and ultimately reached a paltry settlement instead of facing a court battle that could have kept me from ever working in medicine again. My colleagues were told to not contact me with an unspoken threat their employment would be at risk if they did.
I was a depressed physician. I paid for my short-term disability through my group. I was not afforded the opportunity to use my disability insurance and return to work. Nor was I afforded the opportunity to use my disability policy to get better and then find my next job. I was out of work for almost a year.
This is not ok. We, as a profession, do better to look out for and care for our colleagues with substance abuse problems. I was a depressed/irritable doc who deserved the opportunity to get treatment and continue in my job. I am a sub specialist and can’t just hang a shingle on the next street corner.
I know I’m not alone. I was close to becoming another physician suicide statistic.
Beth I’m so sorry. If you ever want to talk contact me here: https://www.idealmedicalcare.org/contact/
I think that the thing that prevents medical students and residents from speaking out is the overwhelming fear of pissing the wrong people off and effectively ending one’s hopes of ever becoming a doctor. It’s a huge, huge fear in my opinion. And, in my judgement, it is just this atmosphere (where there is no recourse against recurring and possibly much greater petty, malignant, and toxic behavior) that underpins the sense of helplessness that leads to these suicides. But, do you know what is almost as bad? When, once you are a practicing physician, you can be made to feel just as helpless. When I worked as an anesthesiologist at a community hospital, I was told point blank by the anesthesia department head that anesthesiologists were the “whores” of the OR implying that I would not be treated any better than a whore. The surprising this is, she was exactly right. What proceeded after that discussion was nothing less than a nightmare for me personally and later, for her as well
It’s not just a fear, I can tell you first hand, it is a legitimate concern, it happened to me.