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JAMA 100 Years Ago
July 16, 2003


Author Affiliations

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 2003;290(3):414. doi:10.1001/jama.290.3.414-a

Incited by a cable dispatch from London announcing a great increase of suicides among physicians in Great Britain, the Chicago Tribune reviews the records for the United States, and finds for the past twelve and one-half years that a total of 519 physicians have committed self-murder. The average annual number is about 41, which has been exceeded six times in twelve years. The smallest number was 23, in 1891, while the largest was 53, in 1893, a time, by the way, of great financial depression. A record for the first six months of 1903 indicates that the present year will probably be up to the average. The above figures, while not indicating such an increase as is reported from abroad, are sufficiently formidable as they are; they far exceed the average ratio of suicides in the general population, in this country at least, and are suggestive in many ways. In Great Britain the cause of the increase is attributed largely to depreciation of income. They suffer there from overcrowding of the profession, competition with quacks and the exploitation of the medical profession by workingmen's clubs, which has become a standing theme in our English contemporaries. In this country we have the trouble of overcrowding to even a greater extent, for here we have twice the number of physicians in proportion to the population as in Great Britain. Moreover, the world is getting healthier, and this healthfulness, again, is largely due to the labors of physicians, who are the only ones that work against their own interests continuously. Mainly through their efforts morbidity is greatly decreased and the professional income of the physician is also diminished.