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Originally published January 21 2011

Many surgeons struggle with thoughts of suicide, study finds

by Jonathan Benson, staff writer

(NaturalNews) High stress levels, burnout and even past surgical mistakes are among the top reasons why one in 16 surgeons has considered suicide, according to a new study published in the journal Archives of Surgery. Tait Shanafelt from the Mayo Clinic and his colleagues found that within the past year, six percent of surgeons contemplated suicide. And surgeons between the ages of 55 and 64 are three times more likely than the national average for that age group to consider taking their own lives.

"What we are seeing through this work is that there is a high amount of burnout and stress among America's physicians, with potentially serious consequences for both physicians and their patients," said Shanafelt. "It isn't necessarily that having thoughts of suicide endangers patient health, but some of the same root causes, particularly burnout, do appear to have a strong relationship with quality of care."

The team surveyed more than 7,900 physicians and found that between six and seven percent of those over the age of 45 had considered suicide, while seven percent of those between the ages of 55 and 64 had considered it. In general, "emotional exhaustion" was also linked to an overall increase in patient medical errors.

Strikingly, only 25 percent of those who indicated suicidal thoughts said they sought any sort of professional help for their problems. Many expressed fear that they would lose their medical licenses if they came forward, so they instead self-prescribed or had someone else prescribe them antidepressant drugs.

A 2009 report published in the Daily Mirror found that U.K. physicians committed 4,000 medical errors in 2008 that could have been avoided. Such errors, which included improper diagnoses, wrong prescriptions, and surgical errors, some of which resulted in patient deaths, likely occurred as a result of fatigue and doctors being overworked (

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