[COLUMN] Physician suicide

BETWEEN 300 to 400 physicians in the United States kill themselves each year, or about one a day. The rate of suicide is highest among anesthesiologists, general practitioners, psychiatrists, and surgeons, a rate higher compared to the rate in other professions, and double that of the suicide rate in the general population.

The unrealistic self-expectation of perfection, corporate control, and meddling (restriction of freedom) in medical practice, unsatisfactory working conditions as employees, and dwindling material situation, are some of the factors that lead to severe depression and suicide among physicians.

In 2022, 49,500 people killed themselves in the United States. I could not find statistics on suicide rate among physicians in the Philippines, but in the general population (predominantly Christian), it is 2.2 per 100,000 population, compared to 13.5 (may be higher) per 100,000 in the U.S. and 17.3 in Japan. Suicide among military veterans in the United States, the rate is at 31.7 (about 20 veterans each day).

For help, in the U.S., you can call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 988, chat on 988lifeline.org, or text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor.

Melatonin warning

New studies revealed that the popular sleep hormone, melatonin, worsens attacks among asthmatic patients. Melatonin is sold over the counter and is an ingredient in many sleep aid formulas. Many of these patients, who take a sleep aid that has melatonin as a component, have more severe episodes because melatonin constricts the airway passage making it harder for these people to breathe. However, natural melatonin secreted by our own body does not cause any problems. Other sensitive individuals (non-asthmatic) could develop heart rhythm irregularity with melatonin.

Among children with asthma, eating fatty fish like sardines and salmon at least two times a week has been shown to reduce asthma symptoms. An impressive lung function improvement was noted after six months of these children who started eating fish. The high omega-3 (antioxidant) content of the fish is an anti-inflammatory agent. Daily exercise also reduces asthmatic symptoms by more than 2.5 times compared to those who do not.

Plant-based diet

Abundant clinical studies have shown that plant-based diets, like the Mediterranean Diet, South Beach Diet, Vegetarian Diet, etc., are healthier compared to diets [based] mainly on red meat. Pork is not white meat as marketed; it is also red meat. Chicken is white meat. Individuals on plant-based diets, which are loaded with polyphenols, and antioxidants that are anti-inflammatory, have a lower risk for metabolic and cardiovascular illnesses and cancers. Exception: Nightshades vegetables (eggplant, potato, pepper, tomato) aggravate arthritis. Steel-cut, gluten-free oatmeal, walnut, pecan, chestnut, and pistachio, and about 3-5 servings of fruits (diabetics should add these to their calorie count) are healthy. The high-heat cooking and burnt part of barbequed meats could increase the risk for cancers, like that of the pancreas.

Stem cell Rx

The building block, the foundation of every cell, tissue, and organ in the body is the stem cell. Stem cells are undifferentiated, with no “specific assigned task as yet.” This has been likened to a blank computer microchip that could be “programmed to perform any number of special tasks.” Subjected to proper conditions, stem cells will develop into specialized tissues and organs (heart, liver, kidneys, etc.). Also, stem cells are “self-sustaining and can replicate themselves for long periods of time.”

Scientists, working on mouse models, have discovered that stem cell therapy could SOMEDAY possibly help cure many common diseases that afflict man today. While the goal of stem cell research is unquestionably laudable, and its potential benefit to mankind tremendous, the controversy centers on its efficacy and safety today, ethical, moral, religious, legal, and social ramifications.

Basically, the grave concerns are (1) The hype and claims are too premature and untrue; (2) Where the stems cells will be harvested from (adult, fetus, or embryo); and (3) The possible misuse and abuse of this new technology.

As I have stated in my talk before the Rotary Club some time ago, this evolving science merits more randomized, double-blind, and voluminous clinical studies in various medical centers around the world before it becomes standard in medical care. It also requires a deep soul-searching introspection, and a serious, intense, and thoughtful deliberation to arrive at a morally, ethically, and medically sound stem cell treatment protocol that will also ensure the protection of the unborn, besides healing the sick, and at the same time preserve the dignity of humankind it seeks to serve.

With its unique characteristics, stem cells can someday provide the cells to replace damaged or diseased tissues with new living cells that will regenerate into healthy, young, normally functioning tissues in the treatment of conditions like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc., or as listed above where specific parts of the organs have been damaged and rendered “non-functioning” leading to the development of the disease.

However, the last word is not in yet. Anyone or any clinic who claims otherwise and offers stem cell therapy for many other diseases or cosmetics or longevity is trying to steal your money. The only evidence-based clinical data showing stem-cell therapy is effective is in the management of blood dyscrasias, leukemia, and some lymphomas, with wonderful results. Indeed, caveat emptor!

On a final note, I want to say this: Filipinos and other peace-loving peoples around the world are praying for all the victims of the atrocities in Israel. Our heart goes out to them and their families. Let us continue to endeavor, dream, and hope for peace and justice around the world.

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The main objective of this column is to educate and inspire people live a healthier lifestyle to prevent illnesses and disabilities and achieve a happier and more productive life. Any diagnosis, recommendation or treatment in our article are general medical information and not intended to be applicable or appropriate for anyone. This column is not a substitute for your physician, who knows your condition well and who is your best ally when it comes to your health.

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, a Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus based in Northwest Indiana and Las Vegas, Nevada, is an international medical lecturer/author, Health Advocate, newspaper columnist, and Chairman of the Filipino United Network-USA, a 501(c)3 humanitarian foundation in the United States. He was a recipient of the Indiana Sagamore of the Wabash Award in 1995, conferred by then Indiana Governor, later Senator, and then presidential candidate, Evan Bayh. Other Sagamore past awardees include President Harry Truman, President George HW Bush, Muhammad Ali, and Astronaut Gus Grissom (Wikipedia). Related websites: FUN8888.com, Today.SPSAtoday.com, and philipSchua.com; Email: [email protected].


Dr. Philip S. Chua

Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus in Northwest Indiana and chairman of cardiac surgery from 1997 to 2010 at Cebu Doctors University Hospital, where he holds the title of Physician Emeritus in Surgery, is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the Philippine College of Surgeons, and the Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society. He is the chairman of the Filipino United Network – USA, a 501(c)(3) humanitarian foundation in the United States.

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