MGM Journal of Medical Sciences

EDITORIAL
Year
: 2022  |  Volume : 9  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 133--134

Doctors’ suicide and the vulnerability of medical profession


Sushil Kumar, Vidya Ramanathan 
 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, MGM Medical College and Hospital, MGM Institute of Health Sciences (Deemed to be University), Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Sushil Kumar
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, MGM Medical College and Hospital, MGM Institute of Health Sciences (Deemed to be University), Navi Mumbai 410209, Maharashtra
India




How to cite this article:
Kumar S, Ramanathan V. Doctors’ suicide and the vulnerability of medical profession.MGM J Med Sci 2022;9:133-134


How to cite this URL:
Kumar S, Ramanathan V. Doctors’ suicide and the vulnerability of medical profession. MGM J Med Sci [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Sep 28 ];9:133-134
Available from: http://www.mgmjms.com/text.asp?2022/9/2/133/347702


Full Text



As she stepped on the stool to place her neck in the loop of death, her mind went back to the day a gold medal was placed on the same neck. The last thought that echoed in her mind was “What was the point of all that?”

Dr. Archana Sharma, a “Gold Medallist in Obstetrics and Gynecology” a respected medical practitioner in Rajasthan, and a mother of two children, took the extreme step to end her life due to false allegations of murder of a pregnant woman who died of postpartum hemorrhage––a well-known complication of pregnancy and the most common cause of maternal mortality in India. The political harassment, the lodging of a First Information Report (FIR) against her, and the consequent fear of arrest by the police led her to commit suicide. This case is just the tip of the iceberg as this issue is not spoken about much and the news is at times buried and not published. This is an exceptional case. How unbearable the situation must be that a mother of two small children takes such a drastic step, leaving her children motherless. Despite the hon. Supreme court’s direction that doctors should not be arrested on account of negligence, the police still take the law into their hands and file an FIR for murder and harass the doctors.[1] Political parties and the local mafia also jump on the bandwagon for their benefit.

The latest study conducted between 2010 and 2019 reported a total of 358 suicide deaths among medicos with an alarming 65% of them being MBBS students and postgraduate resident doctors.[2] The major cause for such a situation is the physical and mental stress attributed to this profession, especially at the learning stage. As per studies, the most common cause of suicide attempts by students and residents is reported to be academic stress followed by mental health problems and commonly reported in the branch of anesthesia followed by obstetrics and gynecology.[2] The most common cause in practicing physicians is reported to be marital discord followed by mental health problems. One more cause is the prolonged working hours for postgraduate residents who are quite literally on 24 × 7 duty. Most residents reported burnout, depression, anxiety, somnolence, and irritability. They believe that more regulated working hours and a weekly off to de-stress can improve their performance and attitude in inpatient care and can eventually improve patient outcomes.[3]

One may say that in cases of false allegations, the doctor can be proven innocent in the court with enough proof, keeping aside the fact that it may cause intense mental trauma and the case may go on for multiple years, but what about the cases when the relatives take law in their own hands and come to beat up the innocent doctor? The prime example of crowd violence or lynching is the death of 73-year-old Dr. Deben Dutta who died of injuries after being assaulted by the relatives of a patient at a tea estate in Assam.[1] The violence against doctors is yet another plausible cause for suicide attempts and is another issue that is hardly spoken about. A study by the Indian Medical Association reports that 75% of doctors in our country have faced violence at some point in medical practice mostly in Emergency units and ICUs.[4]

Adding fuel to the already blazing fire, the COVID-19 pandemic only increased the stress on doctors all over the world. With ungodly working hours, low resources, and even lower manpower, the two waves of the pandemic shook the medical community of India. The reports of suicide by doctors increased much more during the pandemic, although there aren’t any studies yet to quantify them completely. The extreme risk of contracting the infection, shortage of PPEs, risk of transmitting the infection to their loved ones, the sheer magnitude of deaths in COVID wards, and subsequent post-traumatic stress disorder are the factors compounding the risk of suicide.

It is time to introspect and realize that Doctors are also human beings and need to give more attention to mental health. Peer group discussions and supportive therapy can be done for branches with a high-stress environment. Every medical student is taught the importance of empathy and a good attitude toward patients and relatives. Maybe it is now time to learn to show the same attitude to fellow doctors and juniors, as now even doctors have become patients. To end this editorial a word of caution for physicians and surgeons:

No physician, however conscientious or careful, can tell what day or hour he may not be the object of some undeserved attack, malicious accusation, blackmail or suit for damages….[5]

The above quote from a JAMA 1892, written more than 100 years back is all the more relevant today.

Financial support and sponsorship

Not applicable.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

References

1Sushil K Editorial: Doctors in 2020: Battling on many fronts beside COVID-19. MGM J Med Sci 2019;6:155-6.
2Chahal S, Nadda A, Govil N, Gupta N, Nadda D, Goel K, et al. Suicide deaths among medical students, residents and physicians in India spanning a decade (2010-2019): An exploratory study using on line news portals and Google database. Int J Soc Psychiatry 2022;68:718-28.
3Sushil K, Gupta A Resident doctors’ duty hours: A questionnaire-based study in national and international perspective. MGM J Med Sci 2020;7:105-9.
4Ghosh K Violence against doctors: A wake-up call. Indian J Med Res 2018;148:130-3.
5Assaults upon medical men. JAMA 1892;XVIII:399-400. doi: 10.1001/jama.1892.02411170025008