Errors Push Surgeons to Consider Suicide

16% of those who have made a major error think about ending it, study finds
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 18, 2011 12:58 PM CST
Dr. Robert Lehmberg said it took prodding from close friends to finally get him to seek treatment for depression and suicidal thoughts several years ago.   (Danny Johnston)

(Newser) – They're the ones we go to for help, but they may be the ones hurting: Surgeons contemplate suicide at a higher rate than the general public, according to a study of 8,000 surgeons: About 6% reported having recent suicidal thoughts, compared to 3% of the public. But the stat gets even more grim among those who have recently committed a major medical error—it jumps to 16%. Worse still, surgeons are less likely to seek help; only 25% who have such thoughts do, compared to 44% of those in the general public who have thoughts of suicide.

"Surgeons reported a great deal of concern about potential repercussions for their license to practice medicine," and many admitted self-medicating with antidepressant drugs, said the study's lead author. Of the surgeons who reported working less than 40 hours per week, few had suicidal thoughts; but on average, surgeons worked 60 hours per week, with 40% reporting they felt burned out, reports the AP.

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