Fourth young NSW doctor's suicide exposes medicine’s 'shameful secret'

Mel Buttigieg

An urgent investigation has been launched after revelations a fourth young Sydney doctor took her own life in recent months.

Touted as “one of the profession’s brightest” by her peers, fourth-year doctor-in-training Dr Chloe Abbot died on January 9.

Her family believes the 29-year-old podiatrist, who worked at St Vincent’s Hospital until late last year, succumbed to “completely unsustainable” expectations of her job.

Dr Chloe Abbot, a fourth-year doctor-in-training at Sydney's St Vincent’s Hospital, took her own life because of unrealistic work pressures, her family believe. Picture: Supplied

They told The Daily Telegraph she juggled work while studying 40-hours a week for an upcoming medical exam, which they believe tipped her over the edge.

The high achiever also swam for Australia at the 2003 FINA World Championships.

“Someone that had so much to offer was made to feel like, in the end, she wasn’t good enough, would never be good enough and anything she did would never be enough,” Dr Abbot’s younger sister, Micaela said.

“It’s such a loss. She was so brilliantly smart.”

The 29-year-old podiatrist achieved meaningful political changes as a 'champion for young doctors'. Picture: Supplied

Dr Abbot was one of at least 20 doctors who took their own lives between 2007 and 2016, coronial records show.

“The day before she passed away I begged her to leave medicine,” Micaela said.

“There is something wrong with the system, but if no one comes forward no one says anything it gets swept under the rug.”

Dr Chloe Abbot swam for Australia at the 2003 FINA World Championships, and was touted as one of the professions 'brightest stars'. Pictures: Supplied

Chloe achieved meaningful political change as a “champion for young doctors,” the Australian Medical Association said in an obituary of “one of the profession’s brightest young doctors”.

“Her energy and enthusiasm were critical to the success of the intern crisis campaign. Several young doctors now have jobs as a result of her professional advocacy on this issue,” the AMA wrote.

“The ripple effect of her advocacy, of course, means more Australians will now have access to better healthcare.”


Other recent cases of young doctors taking their own lives include a “brilliant doctor” who worked at a Campbelltown Hospital and died last September, and John Moutzouris, a doctor at Liverpool Hospital who died on January 26.

A GoFundMepage set up in Dr Moutzouris’ honour shed some light on the suicide epidemic facing NSW doctors.

“Since John died, we have heard of many more doctors who have taken their own lives,” it states.

“It’s medicine’s shameful secret but hopefully we can start shedding some light into these dark corners.”

The fundraising page said Liverpool Hospital planned to promote welfare and mental health awareness with staff.

Dr John Moutzouris worked at Liverpool Hospital when he took his life on January 26. Picture: Supplied

Health Minister Brad Hazzard has given his department one month to come up with a plan to stop the suicides.

“This is not just doctors. All our medical staff, including nurses and paramedics, who deal with patients on an urgent basis are potentially at risk,” he said.

“We need to understand the full breadth of the problem so we can start putting evidence based measures in place to help those who help us when we need it.”

Mr Hazzard said he has spoken with NSW Coroner Michael Barnes, who revealed 20 doctors in NSW committed suicide from 2007 to 2016.

The Liverpool Hospital, where Dr Moutzouris worked, planned to promote welfare and mental health awareness with staff. Picture: Supplied

Saying other medial staff, including nurses and paramedics, were also at risk, and has given his department a month to devise a plan to prevent suicides among medial industry staff.

“We need to understand the full breadth of the problem so we can start putting evidence based measures in place to help those who help us when we need it,” he told The Daily Telegraph.

If you are concerned about the mental health of yourself or a loved one, seek support and information by calling Lifeline 13 11 14, the Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467, or Beyond Blue 1300 22 46 36.