Foreign medical residents are killing themselves at an alarming rate at New York’s Lincoln Medical Center, and although only a couple of news outlets have taken note so far, one more death (which would make it four in a short period of time) is probably all it would take for everyone to start sitting up.

This blog has always had lots to say about suicide, a complex and surprisingly common act, and here’s something else to say. When you load people’s lives up with intolerable amounts of shit, some will slog through until it ends, some will find another situation, and some will commit suicide. A doctor comments on conditions at another hospital, Sinai:

I’m a physician. I have a career ahead of me, which I’m too scared to speak out against. I came home again to another suicide. Another doctor dead from Mt. Sinai in NY. I think NY is a horrible place to work. Conditions are deplorable for doctors and you should investigate. Both suicides were horrible — jumped from our high rise. I’m convinced it’s the exhaustion, the demands to perform at 100% 24/7 to meet ridiculous administrative and financial demands.

Add to this the visa hell FMRs endure – their superiors control their visas, and can cancel them if the FMR pisses them off – and you have a serious problem. Plus there’s the particular ethos at Lincoln:

We just had orientation and our program director told us two residents died by suicide. Cold and callous, he told us we’d better reach out if need help. Next day I find out a third resident died. I’m very, very afraid. I’ve sacrificed a lot to come here. I was so excited to be here. Now I’ve never been more depressed in my life. His response to the suicides is chilling. Suicide victims are blamed. He took us into the wellness room and said, ‘Let me be clear we are not here to entertain you; we are here to train you.’ Soldier-like. Very traumatic.


As A. Alvarez writes, suicide is “a terrible but utterly natural reaction to the strained, narrow, unnatural necessities we sometimes create for ourselves.” Or the necessities others create for us. It’s not Lincoln’s fault that covid hit just when these residents arrived; it’s not its fault that the hospital sits in one of the most violent, traumatized communities in the country. But once it grasped these conditions, and once it grasped the particular vulnerabilities of just-arrived residents, Lincoln should have done more to give its new residents a break.

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