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September 25, 1987

Physician Suicide

Author Affiliations

Eastern Virginia Medical School Norfolk

Eastern Virginia Medical School Norfolk

JAMA. 1987;258(12):1607. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03400120057016

To the Editor.—  The most distressing aspect of the recent COUNCIL REPORT by the Council on Scientific Affairs1 entitled "Results and Implications of the AMA-APA Physician Mortality Project" doesn't relate to the statistics of the 142 suicide cases but rather to those associated with the "controls."People, physicians or otherwise, who kill themselves are obviously distraught. We shouldn't be surprised that one out of five of them had a history of drinking to the point of unconsciousness, that over one third of them had a history of drug abuse, and that over one third had beaten their wives. Those are painful statistics, but they were obtained on desperate people.The statistics given on the controls are more worrisome if we are to assume that "control" is a synonym for "normal." Are we to accept, for example, that one out of nine physicians beats his wife? Who among us thinks that