Intended for healthcare professionals


Suicide in doctors while under fitness to practise investigation

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 13 February 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h813
  1. Keith Hawton, professor and director
  1. 1Centre for Suicide Research, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, UK
  1. keith.hawton{at}

GMC review contains wide ranging proposals

Doctors have long been known to be at risk of suicide; in several countries their rates of suicide are higher than those for certain other professions and the general population.1 2 3 Some studies have found the main risk to be among female doctors.4 5 Several factors contribute to this problem, including mental disorder, substance misuse, work problems,6 and awareness of and easy access to methods of suicide.3 7 Doctors have higher rates of mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, substance misuse, and “burn out,” than other occupational groups yet getting help may be undermined by lack of willingness to access services.8 9 Some 10-20% of doctors are thought to become depressed at some point in their careers .10

Doctors facing fitness to practise and other investigations understandably find them particularly stressful.11 They may experience challenges to both their professional and personal identities and may feel isolated, stigmatised, and angry. For many doctors their work is their main source of self esteem, making investigation threatening, especially when the process is prolonged. When these circumstances are compounded by lack of support (perceived or otherwise), depression, and …

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