Physician

Why Are Medical Doctors Killing Themselves? – A Doctor Reveals

I would commence this presentation by recounting the stories of 4 Medical Doctors who either took their own lives while actively working or died by negligence while working

He was the most decorated Graduand in that year’s Graduation of one of the foremost Universities in the Country.
He carted away 14 of the 17 awards available in the Faculty of Medical Sciences that year
He became a celebrated Surgeon after doing his residency program in a record 5 years post acceptance.
Not only was he highly cerebral, he was also very friendly, always laughing, always helpful, always available for any and all who would need his help at any time.

Because of these, he was nicknamed Dr. Goodtimes
What many did not know and which he was not letting was that he had an addiction problem. Dr. Goodtimes was at his best when he was high and which seemed to be all the time.

He was his own Doctor; he never confided in any of his Colleagues because he was afraid that he would be ridiculed and made fun of or become the next hot topic for gossip in the Hospital; so he kept his malady to himself.

He knew addiction was a serious mental disease but he always told himself that he was in control of it and not the other way round.
His addiction was such that he could not keep a serious relationship – at 35 years of age, he was still unmarried.

Then one day just out of the blues, he was found sprawled on the floor in his office – a Junior Resident had gone to call him for an emergency that had just been brought by his team to the OR and found him in that state; confused, the Resident quickly checked for vital signs and noted that he was still breathing but knocked out, he quickly rushed back to the OR to attract the attention of the SR without causing panic.

They both quickly carried him bodily to the ICU where he was quickly examined by the attending Physician and declared to be under the influence of a narcotic and admitted for observation.

When he came by, Dr. Goodtimes saw the look of concern on the faces of the attending Medical Team of Doctors and Nurses and concluded that they were mocking him now that his secret was out. However they reassured him that his safety and good health were their concerns.

He told the attending Physician that he was not suicidal but had simply overdosed. He was advised to quit the habit in order to save himself from harm.

The following day he was let out and he rushed out of the Hospital to his house but he hungered after his skunk and could not resist having another swipe.

He requested for 3 days casual leave which was granted.

When he came back to work after the casual leave, his countenance changed. He was no longer as happy, no longer as jovial, no longer as available as he used to be. He became irritable and highly irritated at many small things that he used to over look. Whenever he was passing by and saw two Staff members discussing, he felt they were talking about him; he started avoiding meeting people except during Ward Rounds. When he was not consulting, he was in his office.

This went on for months during which time Dr. Goodtimes lost touch with life.

One morning, he was not at work, his Team members wondered where he may have gone to without notifying them. His phone rang several times without being answered and at a point it became switched off.
None of his Team Members knew where he lived and so the CMD was informed and his file was ordered for to be able to locate his residential address.

The CMD sent the Team with an Ambulance to the address, only to find a lot of people around the house and the Police car packed there. When they identified themselves, the Team was allowed into the building and right there, was Dr. Goodtimes sprawled on the floor again but this time – immobile.
A feel showed that he was stone cold – dead.
It was suspected that he must have died of substance overdose because all around him were scattered substances including cocaine, heroin, rohypnol ecstasy and others.

The note he left said that “he was sorry to end his own life because he could not face the humiliation any longer”
Many questions were asked but Dr. Goodtimes was no longer available to answer them.

……………….

He was the go-to sports guy in Washington, DC. A masterful Surgeon with countless academic publications, he trained Orthopaedic Surgeons across the world and was the top Physician for professional sports teams and Olympians.

Dr. B. S. had it all.

He was a kind, sweet, brilliant, and sensitive soul who could relate to anyone—from inner city children to Supreme Court Justices.

He was gorgeous and magnetic with a sense of humor and a zest for life that was contagious. Most of all, he loved helping people.

Patients came to him in pain and left his office laughing. They called him “Dr. Smiles.”
Dr. B. S. was at the top of his game when he ended his life.
So why did he die?

Underneath his irresistible smile, he hid a lifetime of anxiety amid his professional achievements.

He had recently been weaned off anxiolytics and was suffering from rebound anxiety and insomnia—sleeping just a few hours per night and trying to operate and treat patients each day.

Then his psychiatrist retired and passed him on to a new one.
Eight days before he died, his psychiatrist prescribed two new drugs that worsened his insomnia, increased his anxiety, and led to paranoia.
He was told he would need medication for the rest of his life.

Devastated, Dr. B. S. feared he would never have a normal life.
He told his sister it was “game over.” Dr. B. S. admitted he was suicidal with a plan though he told his Psychiatrist he wouldn’t act on it.

Dr. B. S. knew he should check himself into a hospital, but was panicked.
He was terrified he would lose his patients, his practice, his marriage, and that everyone in DC—team owners, players, patients, colleagues—would find out about his mental illness and he would be shunned.

The night before he died, Dr. B. S. requested the remainder of the week off to rest.

His colleagues were supportive, yet he was ashamed.

He slept that night, but awoke wiped out on May 20, 2015.

After driving his son to school, he came home and hanged himself on a bookcase.

He left no note. He left behind his wife and two children.

……………….

2.

On November 18, 2014, after reading an Article online discussing Physicians Suicide, Dr. V sent this mail to the Author
Dear P,

Hi, dear. You don’t know how thankful I am to you for writing that article on physicians suicide. I really wanted to hug you after reading it.
I had a really rough day after seeing 130 outpatients and around 60 admission emergency in a 12 hour duty.
I work as a final year MD internal medicine resident in one of the busiest hospital in India.

I saw a part of myself in every page of your article
Just couldn’t stop reading the article.

It is 3:00 am in the morning here and after a physically and mentally demanding day of work and studies reading your article was the best thing today.
It takes me 5 hours by flight to reach my home from my hospital.
I have my wife and 6 month old son (whom I have been with for only 15 days since his birth) at home.
I work day in and out just to be with them once in 3 months.
I don’t see my colleagues smile, I hear my patients misery every day.
I smile and crack jokes even when I am sad so that I can bring some joy into my patients sorrowful life.

Today I saw this patient who died, married with a son, the only earning member of his family… his widow just wouldn’t accept that he was dead. She kept talking to him. I just didn’t know what to feel… I was numb for a minute thinking what if that was me… And the kid is my son…

I see deaths every day in the ward… I don’t know if you would believe me, but 4 deaths per day in a single ward of 40 beds overcrowded to 125 patients admitted at a time.
Two patients on a bed, two lying together on the floor.
Poverty, misery and pain all around.

I have declared 12 patients dead in a day during one of my duties.
I just don’t feel death anymore, just don’t feel human.
My uncle died recently, I felt nothing deep inside just some memories and that is it.
I write this mail hoping that the way I survive my day would help you in helping others.
I always wish my colleagues and say hi when I see them in the morning.
Say hi to everyone from my ward sweeper to the guard in the ward.

I never eat alone and always make sure I share my food.
I always smile whenever I talk to my patients. I hold their hands when I talk.
I listen to music whenever possible.
And everyday whenever possible I talk to my wife, father, mother, and brother (all of them are doctors).
But still this profession demands too much from us.
I have thought about giving up and suicide a thousand times ……the misery was too much for me to see 12 people die in a day.

The only thing that keeps me moving forward is my family and friends.
I appreciate what you are doing.
It took me 4 hours to write this mail.
It is 7 am in the morning.
But your article was worth it.
Thank you. Thanks a lot….. Dr. V
Dr. V died by suicide on June 14, 2016.

…………

3.

He was one of the finest brains in Surgery that anyone could be.
Always cheerful, easy going, willing to serve.

His income was not meeting up with the demands on him and so he decided to set up a Clinic.
He took a Bank Loan to do that but the Building that housed the Clinic was on rent for two years in the first instance. The loan helped him acquire certain equipments that kick- started the Clinic.
All the stress and strains of jumping from Hospital of practice to Clinic of work had caused a great dent on his heart – he knew it but decided to live in denial.
He did not want anyone to know that he was “sick”

Because his recurrent expenditure at the Clinic was more than his income from there, he found himself subsidizing the Clinic from other income.
Then he defaulted in the loan repayment and it started accruing default charges and because he was yet to break even in the Clinic, he also defaulted in the rent.

One day he came to the Clinic after work to see two letters – one from the Bank and the other from the Landlord, as if they were acting in cohort.
The Bank gave him 2 weeks within which to liquidate the loan or face prosecution and the Landlord gave him a 6 week quit notice.

The following day at work was his worst.

He kept having the pangs of a heart attack but continuously ignored them and then just as he was about rounding off from the Hospital, he got a call from the Clinic that there was an emergency.

He rushed down there to attend to the patient; soon as he was through with the patient, he had a swoon and held unto his chest, bent and sought for the nearest bed to lie down.

He did indeed lie down but it was the last time he was conscious. It was the patient who shouted to attract the nurses and other staff on duty; confused the Nurses called his friend but by the time help could come – Dr. A was dead.

He was rushed to his Hospital of practice and pronounced DEAD ON ARRIVAL.

We could go on and on and on bringing stories of Doctors who have ended their own lives by themselves and of their own accord wittingly or unwittingly.

BUT the big question is –

Why are Medical Doctors Killing Themselves?

The medical word for one taking one’s own life is SUICIDE
Of all occupations and professions, the medical profession consistently hovers near the top of occupations with the highest risk of death by suicide.

Sadly, although physicians globally have a lower mortality risk from cancer and heart disease relative to the general population (presumably related to knowledge of self care and access to early diagnosis), they have a significantly higher risk of dying from suicide, the end stage of an eminently treatable disease process.

Perhaps even more alarming is that, after accidents, suicide is the most common cause of death among medical students.

Physician suicides have been reported since 1858
Between 2004 and date about 1. 013 cases of Physician suicides have been reported

Of these 1,013 suicides, 888 are physicians and 125 are medical students.

The majority (867) are in the USA and 146 are international.

Every year, three to four hundred physicians take their own lives — the equivalent of two to three medical school classes (Struggling in Silence AFSP)
Put another way, we lose a doctor a day to suicide
Surgeons have the greatest number of suicides on the list, then anesthesiologists.

However, when accounting for numbers of active physicians per specialty, anesthesiologists are more than twice as likely to die by suicide than any other physician. Surgeons are number two, then emergency medicine physicians, obstetrician/gynecologists, and psychiatrists.

For every woman who dies by suicide on the list, we lose four men.
Suicide methods vary by specialty, region, and gender.
Women prefer overdose.
In the USA, men use firearms.
Jumping is popular in New York City.
In India, doctors are found hanging from ceiling fans.
Male anesthesiologists are at highest risk among all physicians.
Most anesthesiologists overdose.

Many are found dead inside hospital call rooms.
Public perception maintains that doctors are successful, intelligent, wealthy, and immune from the problems of the masses.
To patients, it is inconceivable that doctors would have the highest suicide rate of any profession.
Even more baffling, “happy” doctors are dying by suicide.
Many doctors who kill themselves appear to be the most optimistic, upbeat, and confident people.
-Just back from Disneyland,
-just bought tickets for a family cruis

-just gave a thumbs up to the team after a successful surgery—
and hours later they shoot themselves in the head.

This is an excerpt from the presentation made At The ARD FMC Jabi AGM Opening Ceremony/Scientific Conference Monday 17th December 2018 By
Dr. Jerry – the First Oguzie: JP MBBCh(Cal), MBA (Frankfurt) Training and Management Consultant Protocol Appreciation Presentation End.

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Dr E
The Admin is a Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria Certified Medical Doctor, with profound expertise in Medical Content Creation and Medical Citizen Journalism. He is popular for being a fast-rising online voice in Nigeria, with a flair for animated writing. He is a professional health content writer. He loves to swim, read and play board games. He sees himself as one who is destined to play a role in the way health services are rendered to the human race.
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