Problem

Impairment of physicians' ability

Other Names:
Ill-health of doctors
Nature:
Physicians are exposed to a variety of diseases and hazards of infection. As an occupational disease, however, heart conditions are most associated with the profession, and usually explained as due to its stresses. Less well-known are physicians' mental disorders. Physicians' ill-health may disqualify them from some kinds of medical practice.
Incidence:
In the USA among male doctors who died aged 39 or less, a study showed that 28% were suicides; English, Canadian and Danish physician statistics show high suicide rates as well. In Australia it has been estimated in the medical journal of that country that two to four percent of all doctors commit suicide. A Harvard University study of New England physicians showed that 17% of doctors had been hospitalized for psychiatric reasons, 35% used mind and mood altering drugs such as tranquillizers regularly, and over 30% had consulted psychiatrists for personal help. Drug addiction studies in France, Holland, Germany and the UK indicate that physicians comprise 17% of drug abusers, with nurses and pharmacists comprising another 15%. American Medical Association statistics estimate that 6% of all American physicians are significantly impaired by addiction to drugs or alcohol. Regarding moral impairment, a survey in the American Journal of Psychiatry reported that 13% of the male physicians studied indicated that they had erotic behaviour with their patients.
Claim:
Physicians should be in a state of well-being while rendering health services. They are generally scrupulous about risks to patients from their own infectious diseases, such as respiratory or skin ailments, but are less careful when maintaining a stressful practice, such as surgery, while they themselves have serious heart conditions. The statistics show that physicians' serious problems of personal, emotional, psychological, nervous or behavioural natures that should bar active practices in fact are no hindrances to their rendering unrestricted health care. Such problems may in fact be known to their medical colleagues as well, indicating that there is insufficient internal regulation in the profession. The absence of careful periodic physical and psychological screening of physicians may reduce the trust the public places in the MD as a qualification, viewing it more in relationship to the drivers licence. In the case of drivers, the licence can be taken away for drunken driving, and at a certain age re-testing is required; in the abuse of the medical licence, patients may be harmed, but physicians fight control, handicapped by a lack of understanding of their own problems.
Problem Type:
E: Emanations of other problems
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being
Date of last update
08.03.1997 – 00:00 CET