Will the UK follow the USA in physician suicides? The stress and reduced expectations suggest it might…

Will the UK follow the USA in physician suicides? The stress and reduced expectations suggest it might…

Jorge Ramirez opines in DoctoDoc 1st July 2015: It is time to break the silence on physician suicide.

There is an increasing trend of reports concerning doctors that committed suicide. (1,2)

Widespread corruption and wrongdoings involving the American Association of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) and Physician Health Programs (PHPs) have been denounced by different sources as a key factor involved in the abuse, hopelessness, and suicide of our colleagues.(3) ASAM and PHPs are coercing physicians into 12-steps recovery programs, an intervention not supported by the evidence, but “spiritual recovery” and irrational prescription of active pharmacological principles (e.g., suboxone).(4) The creation of “addiction medicine” as a medical specialty is also part of this problem and far away to be the solution.

One thing is for certain. When society gives power of diagnosis and treatment to individuals within a group schooled in just one uncompromising model of addiction with the majority attributing their very own sobriety to that model, they will exercise that power to diagnose and treat anyone and everyone according to that model. The birth of Addiction Medicine as an ABMS accepted discipline is sure to be a success for the drug and alcohol testing and 12-step treatment industry, but its spawn is sure to be an inauspicious mark on the Profession and Guild of Medicine and a bane of society for years to come.” ―Michael Lawrence Langan.(5)

I am concerned about the insufficient information about physician suicide in countries outside the United States (considering that there is also not enough information about this matter in the US). In Colombia, a statistical report by the national institute of legal medicine, reported eight cases of suicides of doctors and other healthcare professionals in 2011.(6) However, this report does not provide specific details about these eight cases of suicide. A more recent publication by the National Institute of Legal Medicine (2013) unfortunately does not report the number of suicides among doctors and other healthcare professionals in Colombia. I knew two colleagues in Colombia that committed suicide but the circumstances, motives, and predisposing factors remain hidden behind a wall of silence.

If we continue keeping the silence involving the suicide of our colleagues, it will be very difficult for us to prevent  the suicide of our patients, as well as effectively supporting families suffering by the suicide of one of their loved ones.


1. Google News (search query: “physician suicide”): https://goo.gl/vp72Ub

2. Pamela Wibble. Physician suicide 101: Secrets, lies and solutions.

3. Michael L. Langan. Category: Physician Suicide.

4. [(Chaos) x (Suboxone + J Addict Med + Am Soc Addict Med + Like Minded Docs + Addiction Medicine + Spiritual Interventions + 12 Step Recovery Programs + Drug Testing)]

5. Re: Drug policy: we need brave politicians and open minds BMJ 2014.

6. Comportamiento del suicidio en Colombia, 2011. Instituto Nacional de Medicina Legal.

This entry was posted in A Personal View, Professionals, Stories in the Media on by .

About Roger Burns - retired GP

I am a retired GP and medical educator. I have supported patient participation throughout my career, and my practice, St Thomas; Surgery, has had a longstanding and active Patient Participation Group (PPG). I support the idea of Community Health Councils, although I feel they should be funded at arms length from government. I have taught GP trainees for 30 years, and been a Programme Director for GP training in Pembrokeshire 20 years. I served on the Pembrokeshire LHG and LHB for a total of 10 years. I completed an MBA in 1996, and I along with most others, never had an exit interview from any job in the NHS! I completed an MBA in 1996, and was a runner up for the Adam Smith prize for economy and efficiency in government in that year. This was owing to a suggestion (St Thomas' Mutual) that practices had incentives for saving by being allowed to buy rationed out services in the following year.

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