Administrative Update  |   August 2018
Suicide Is Not Painless
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Cardiovascular Anesthesia / Education / CPD / Infectious Disease / Pain Medicine / Patient Safety / Pediatric Anesthesia / Administrative Update
Administrative Update   |   August 2018
Suicide Is Not Painless
ASA Monitor 8 2018, Vol.82, 4-5.
ASA Monitor 8 2018, Vol.82, 4-5.
Growing up, one of my favorite T.V. programs was “M*A*S*H.” It was one of the most popular shows of that era, based upon a popular novel and movie of the same title. As an aspiring physician, I was particularly drawn to it. Anyone even remotely familiar with that show is likely well aware of its iconic theme song. What is perhaps less well known is the song’s title: “Suicide Is Painless.” The song and its title are derived from a scene in the film in which the “M*A*S*H” unit’s dentist, Captain Walter “Painless Pole” Waldowski, attempts suicide.
I have been reflecting recently on that song, in light of our increasing awareness of the growing crisis within health care – and particularly within our specialty – of physician suicide. More than a century before the 1970 release of “M*A*S*H,” we have known that physician suicide rates far exceed those of the general population, which was first reported in 1858.2  It’s a trend that has unfortunately continued unabated to the present time, with an estimated 400 physician suicides in the U.S. last year. Anesthesiologists have been shown to die by suicide significantly more frequently than a matched cohort of internists, with a drug-related suicide rate more than double that of internists.1  Although less scientifically rigorous, an opinion piece in The Washington Post4  provided observations made by that author of the list of physician deaths by suicide she has compiled. Among her observations was that male anesthesiologists were the demographic most frequently represented on her list.
1 Comment
August 6, 2018
Martin Kungl
Ohio Anesthesia Group
CRNAs and AAs, too
Thank you for chairing this committee. I am sure that you will include support for our anesthetists as well. Unfortunately, OAG has seen loss on all fronts: Doctors, CRNAs and AAs.
Respectfully, Marty
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