The suicide of young doctor Chanh Thaow, following a similar case last year with Lachlan McIntyre, is tragic (The Age, 12/9/2006). We need to question the ability of the medical fraternity to deliver necessary reforms for doctor training. Many friends of mine have come through this process, and I'm sure I'm not alone in being gob-smacked at the ridiculous hours they work and the extreme pressure they're placed under. I doubt any other workers would tolerate the treatment afforded to young doctors.
To an outsider, the medical working environment, with its rigid heirarchies and absolute control, seems a throwback to the 19th century. It's like they're trapped in a bubble. Indeed, the arrogant and dismissive reaction of one small part of the system - the College of Surgeons - to outside scrutiny speaks volumes about their capacity to change (The Age, 12/9/2006).
These entrenched attitudes don't just affect doctors' welfare. Last financial year, The Age reported on 122 "sentinel events" (or serious medical errors, 34 resulting in death) in Victoria's hospitals (The Age, 31/5/2006). It's reasonable to attribute at least some of these mistakes to the stress and fatigue borne by young doctors.
For too long the medical fraternity has had carte blanche to regulate itself like no other group in society. It's time to for them to open up.