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tom moody

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Just reading about the suicide of Arkansas heart surgeon Jonathan Drummond-Webb. His "extraordinary success rate for repairing complicated defects in [infant] hearts the size of an adult's thumb -- and his flair with patients and their families -- had made him a surgical star. He came across as a hero in a four-part prime-time ABC documentary in 2002." The AP story makes you wonder what really happened. In his suicide note he railed against his co-workers at the hospital:
The 45-year-old surgeon left a profanity-laced suicide note in which he indicated he felt his work was underappreciated and ranted about colleagues at Arkansas Children's Hospital and at the Cleveland Clinic, where he formerly worked.

"Every day my living hell!!" the scribbled note read. "These people don't care. I have a gift to save babies. The world is not ready for me."
But when interviewed, these co-workers didn't say, "Yeah, we suck." Instead they blamed...the deceased.
[C]olleagues said Drummond-Webb was his own toughest critic.

"Some would say they saved 98 out of 100," said Arkansas Children's Hospital chief executive Dr. Jonathan Bates. "He looked at it and said, 'I lost two out of 100.'"

Anesthesiologist Dr. Mike Schmitz said that even in Drummond-Webb's incredible achievements, the surgeon "saw his own subtle imperfections."

"I knew well that much of his angst was internal, a small voice in the back of his mind that said, 'That's not good enough: I could have done better,'" Schmitz wrote in a tribute to Drummond-Webb in the hospital's in-house magazine. "That which helped make him such a gifted surgeon was also an incredible burden; a burden that at least for a few hours one night became unbearable."
I'd like to read more of Drummond-Webb's "ranting" about these guys. Maybe the hospital was an emotionally toxic work environment? Newspaper stories like this are frustrating, in that the survivors get to write the script.

- tom moody 1-10-2005 11:55 pm [link] [add a comment]