Physician Suicide 101: Secrets, lies and solutions by Dr. Pamela Wible, M.D., is now featured on KevinMD.com. Please read and comment! We need to use this as a stepping stone to start discussing the Elephant in the room; state Physician Health Programs (PHPs) organized under the Federation of State Physician Health Programs. These programs once served the dual purpose of helping sick doctors and protecting the public from harm.
Taken over by the “impaired physician” movement the current manifestation is one of absolute power and unrestrained managerial authority with no meaningful oversight, regulation or accountability. It is a culture of institutional injustice that is preventing doctors from seeking help for fear of being ensnared and monitored by them. Those being monitored by them are subject to bullying, abuse and forced 12-step indoctrination under threat of loss of licensure. Many of these doctors do not even have an addiction or substance use disorder. Situational factors, a “one-off” or even a false accusation can result in monitoring by these programs that encourage confidential referral for things such as being behind on medical charts. Sham peer-review is rampant.
Moreover, the authority bestowed on this group is both illegitimate and irrational. The mechanics and mentality of the Federation of State Physician Health Programs conforms to that of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). Although there are some Addiction Psychiatrists involved, the vast majority are “specialists” in “Addiction Medicine.“
The ASAM is not even recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties as a bona fide specialty. It is a Self-Designated-Medical-Specialty; an AMA term used to keep track of what any group of doctors is calling themselves.
Dr. Gregory H. Miday (1982-2012) A Doctor who would have made this world a better place.
In fact, American Board of Addiction Medicine (ABMS) “board certification” is little more than a diploma mill.
Yet these “specialists” are now in charge of ALL things related to PHYSICIAN HEALTH.
Many of the physicians running these programs had their licenses revoked and got them back by claiming salvation through the good graces of Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step methodology. Many have felony convictions. Some have double felonies.
At best we have unqualified zealots. But one major problem I have heard over and over again from physicians forced into these programs is an absolute lack of justice, empathy and even civility by those in charge.
A note from Dr. Karen Miday whose son Greg died by suicide after having a Corona in Peurto Rico while on vacation:
Dr. Gregory H. Miday ( 1982-2012) My physician son died of suicide 2 years ago while being monitored by the Missouri PHP. When he called to notify them of his relapse (while vacationing in Puerto Rico) and his intent to admit himself to a local public treatment center (decision made in consultation with his psychiatrist during an office visit that morning) the PHP said they did not approve of the plan. They told him to come speak with them instead. He chose otherwise. His phone calls to the PHP were the last ones he ever made. Clearly, he did not see them as benevolent. I sincerely doubt that he is their only casualty. Yet, where are the statistics? How many others have died under their watch. Strangely, the clinical director ( an RN, and likely recovering addict) told my husband that no internal review of my son’s case was planned. Such reviews after a suicide are mandatory at every public mental health facility I have practiced at. Our best and our brightest are being subjected to substandard care without any oversight or accountability. I can’t bring my son back. I do hope, however, that others will join me in an effort to pull the curtain back on these programs and perhaps save other lives. Karen Miday, MD, Cincinnati, OH
Misconduct, fraud, and even crimes are being reported.
Perhaps the 12-step salvation is just a ruse for some of them; a convenient cloak under which to hide all manner of abuse with impunity and immunity.
These individuals have been granted unrestrained managerial prerogative and absolute power over doctors. They decide not only who to monitor but how that monitoring proceeds in every last detail. Our fates, literally, lie in the hands of this group. No more physicians should die by this system of institutional injustice, bullying and pseudoscience. The conflicts-of-interest are abhorrent and would be incomprehensible in any other venue.
Isn’t it time we take charge? And the solution is fairly simple.
Oversight, regulation, and auditing by OUTSIDE groups. That is how it’s done everywhere else. Why do these guys get a pass? Why would anyone be against procedural fairness and transparency in any situation? These are legitimate questions.
State Medical Societies, Departments of Public Health, the American Medical Association, the American Council on Graduate Medical Education, the Institute of Medicine and other Accreditation and Professional Organizations need to start addressing this.
This is a Public Health Emergency that is not going away. It needs to be addressed directly and with urgency; not with kid gloves and temporization.
Accountability is without exception. It requires both the provision of information and justification for actions. Accountability also requires consequences for actions if they breach standards-of-care, ethics and the law.
Hopefully this article will succeed in framing certain questions for the medical profession; questions that we all need to think about now before the door closes for good.
Physician Suicide 101: Secrets, Lies & Solutions by Pamela Wible, M.D.
Physician Suicide, the “Impaired Physician Movement” and ASAM: The Dead Doctors at Ridgeview Institute under G. Douglas Talbott, by Michael Langan, M.D.