How medical institutions cover up suicides

I recently learned of yet another medical student suicide. Ari Frosch, a second-year student at Penn, died by suicide by walking onto the northbound tracks as a Boston-bound Amtrak train passed through Mansfield station. Amtrak trains do not stop at Mansfield station. Police have surveillance tape of the victim trespassing and walking right onto the tracks. There’s no mystery surrounding this medical student’s very public suicide.

Yet his medical school reports that Ari died suddenly last week at home with family in Newton, Massachusetts. Except that he was not in Newton. He was in Mansfield. He was not with his family. He was not even at home. He was at a railroad station — where he died.

Why hide the truth in a lie? So nobody will know that each year more than one million Americans lose their doctors to suicide. So nobody will know that physician suicide is a public health crisis. So nobody will know how many medical students we lose to suicide each year.

Censorship just ensures that these suicides will continue. Next week our doctors will still be jumping from hospital rooftops, overdosing in call rooms, found hanging in hospital chapels. And these suicides will still be covered up by some of our hospitals, clinics, and medical schools — often with these handy little euphemisms.

Euphemisms to cover up medical student and doctor suicides

  • Doctor passed away unexpectedly in his sleep.
  • Doctor found dead in hospital. Declared non-suspicious.
  • His light went out too soon.
  • Medical student passed into eternity.
  • Doctor died by “accidental overdose.”
  • Medical student died suddenly at home.
  • She passed away peacefully.
  • He went to be with the Lord.

Euphemisms are vague, indirect expressions substituted for facts to avoid something unpleasant or embarrassing. That’s not science. It’s deception. Word matter.

Here’s a simple idea. Let’s just tell the truth.

Pamela Wible was once a suicidal physician and now helps her colleagues find their way out of despair and hopelessness in medicine. Contact Dr. Wible here. Please reach out for help if you are suffering. You are loved.  

She pioneered the community-designed ideal medical clinic and blogs at Ideal Medical Care, and is the author of Physician Suicide Letters — Answered and Pet Goats and Pap Smears. Watch her TEDx talk, How to Get Naked with Your Doctor. She hosts the physician retreat, Live Your Dream, to help her colleagues heal from grief and reclaim their lives and careers.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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