A hidden epidemic within the medical industry has led many to the edge.
Can we rescue the rescuers?
Trigger Warning: Suicide
On Thursday afternoon in Hell’s Kitchen, heads were turned as dozens of medical professionals, dressed in white coats and scrubs, walked arm-in-arm in memory of their friends and colleagues lost to suicide each year.
Dr. Pamela Wible, a physician with a private practice in Eugene, Oregon, has found her passion – in taking on, what she describes as “assembly-line medicine”. She has catalogued thousands of physician deaths, exposed hospital cover-ups, and runs a suicide hotline for doctors in crisis. Having struggled with suicidal thoughts during her own residency, she has identified troubling similarities.
“I know from the outside the hospital looks like it could be a safe place, but people working in there? They’re having [the] physiologic breakdown that human beings have when they’re mistreated. They don’t have anywhere to go with this tremendous amount of pressure.”
According to a study in 2014, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of resident death among women and 1st among men, but many more have thought about it and attempted. Two Mount Sinai West physicians leapt to their deaths from the nearby residents’ housing in the last two years. One third year resident admitted before the crowd that she had a close call just two months ago.
“I was sitting in the bathtub with a razor blade and instead I called a friend. I had this pull that said, ‘I need some kind of human kindness before I can deal with this afternoon of patients.”
Determined to push the industry to action, Dr. Wible and Emmy-winning director Robyn Symon joined together to produce ‘Do No Harm,’ a documentary currently on an international screening tour. The film reveals the silent epidemic and advances the institutional work being done to save both doctors’ and patients’ lives.
“When I linked the causes of why doctors would jump to the quality of patient care, then to me, it became a story that impacted everyone. We can’t wait for regulators to make changes. We’ve waited for decades,” said Symon.
Some physicians have made the choice to step away and potentially save their lives. Dr. Zinaria Williams, an opthamologist in New York, left the hospital circuit 10 years ago and now writes about how the system turned patients into the enemy who robbed doctors of sleep and family time. But she wants students to know that there are alternatives.
“You can feel fulfilled… endure and make it in a way that you want…this job is not worth dying for.”