Do physician health programs increase physician suicides? —Pamela Wible, MD

The “impaired physicians movement” often uses William Halsted as an example of how doctors can continue practicing medicine while impaired and how the “code of silence” allows it.
Multiple sources document his behavior when he was addicted to cocaine including his behavior in the OR. This is what led him to treatment at Butler in Providence where Morphine replaced cocaine.and to which he was addicted to until he died. No evidence of impairment was reported during those years but his achievements are prolific and numerous.

In all likelihood Halsted’s morphine intake was a constant measured dose that allowed him to function on a daily basis– s maintenance dose that was consistent. Whatever the case may be it is absurd to interpret the situation a century later in our current social, cultural and intellectual context.

Halsted changed medicine forever and made this world a better place. His contributions to public health and aseptic infection control alone saved untold lives. He is a hero and a legend..

But from the point of view of some people he was just an addict with a “disease” and noting else matters.

Black and white thinking, false dichotomies and either or thinking abound in this groupthink.

Thank God this group wasn’t around when Halsted was. But the question is how many Halsted’s are we losing today—snuffed out by zealots and self-appointed experts

Disrupted Physician

Do physician health programs increase physician suicides?

How do we care for the people who care for us? As doctors, we’re immersed in pain and suffering — as a career. We cry when our patients die. We feel grief anxiety, depression — even suicidal — all occupational hazards of our profession.

A recent Medscape article on physician health programs suggests the people who are here to help us may actually be doing more harm than good. And they may even be increasing physician suicides.

 Both doctors I dated during medical school died by suicide. Eight physicians killed themselves in my town alone. I’ve become a specialist in physician suicide. My cell phone has turned into a suicide hotline. And I have a stack of physician suicide notes that I keep at home.

Here’s one of them:

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Dear Some, My family, I…

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