While channel surfing Tuesday night, I came upon the above documentary film, Do No Harm: Exposing the Hippocratic Myth, when I saw a scene of medical students graduating from Des Moines University. I wondered if this was the same school that my younger brother, who is a D.O. graduated from. It was, so I continued watching it to the end.
According to the documentary, physicians have the highest rate of suicide among the professions. And the toll on their friends and families is one of shock and despair that they never received any help for their depression and thoughts of suicide. The feeling of isolation overwhelms many of our young doctors, and the only way out is to commit suicide by whatever means is available.
At one point in the film when the producer interviewed him, the President/CEO of the Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), said they agreed with recommendations made to deal with this crisis, and then in the next sequence, the film states that hours were increased from 18 to 28 hours. However, in 2003 the ACGME set new rules limiting residents’ hours to 80 hours a week and to 16 hour shifts, so something is wrong here.
69 percent of doctors report having abused drugs. Medical errors are the third highest cause of death in the United States after Heart Disease and Cancer, with 251,000 deaths a year. Depressed residents cause 6.2 times more errors than their peers, and 1 out of 20 admit making an error that leads to the death of a patient.
The reason for this problem stems from the fact that residents are a cheap source of labor for hospitals. Residents are paid on average $40,000 a year, while Medicare pays the hospitals an average of $112,000 per resident. Hospital CEO’s annual salary range from $600,000 to $1 million, and with bonuses and incentives, it can go as high as $12 million or more.
Physician burnout among physicians, as the chart below shows, is highest among Emergency Medicine, followed by Ob/GYN, Family Medicine (as I can attest to with regard to my brother, who began his practice as one of six doctors, and is now the lone doctor in two offices. Needless to say, it has caused him some personal distress, but thankfully for my family, he is not a statistic).
Sixty percent of Emergency Medicine physicians experience burnout, OB/GYN physicians exhibit more than fifty percent burnout, and Family Medicine physicians exhibit roughly fifty-five percent burnout.
Until the medical profession comes clean and realizes that working physicians to death is not healthy for the body of American medicine, this abuse will continue. At one point, Pamela Wible says that this system is a violation of human rights according to the United Nations.
Please watch this very informative and eye-opening documentary, and if you have any power to end this crisis, please do.