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To the Editor.—
The eight suicides in 13 months among physicians on probation in Oregon reported by Crawshaw et al (1980;243:1915) are indeed dismaying. So important a topic needs to be viewed in context. Specifically, what was the total of suicides in this special group over the six years for which some data are given? What was the suicide rate among physicians not on probation during the same period? It is altogether unjustified to extrapolate, as the authors have done, a suicide rate from the tiny population base of 40 persons over a highly selected period. Their calculation of a gigantic rate is unreasonable and might well justify euphoria over how few suicides there were among probationers during 1972 to 1975.If, as seems likely from the omission of any mention, there were no suicides in this special group during the remainder of the six years cited, the total of
Murphy GE. Suicide by Physicians on Probation. JAMA. 1981;245(15):1526. doi:10.1001/jama.1981.03310400012009