I'm talking about the March 17th Oprah Winfrey Show (Big "O", as I fondly refer to her) where she interviewed Montel Williams and Dr. Oz. Now, before anyone sighs a big yawn and says, "For the love of gawd, I'm sick of reading/hearing about this!" (because I know I'D be doing that right about now), please understand I am neither writing about Big "O"'s ignorance of MS NOR Montel's interview. I accept Big "O" for what she is (a mega star/billionaire, richer than me) and I have nothing bad to say about Montel (dude with MS trying to become richer writing books). I am solely here to betch slap The Wizard of OZ, AKA, Dr. Mehmet Oz into tomorrow. And, contrary to his statements during the above mentioned show, I plan to back mine with researched fact and my own personal voodoo twist stemming from 23 years of psychiatric experience...ahem. So let me begin and let's get this over with.
Yes, I AM going to talk about Multiple Sclerosis and SUICIDE. After all, I DO know a bit about both topics. So let me preface this post with the following statement:
DR. MEHMET OZ WAS UTTERLY AND PROFOUNDLY WRONG AND MISLEADING IN HIS STATEMENTS REGARDING SUICIDE BEING A LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH IN PEOPLE DIAGNOSED WITH MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS (I won't even TOUCH on the "suffocation" comment yet).
Yes, I said it. Sue me. No jury would convict because I've got statistics on my side. But, for the legal record, let me quote his EXACT statement during the interview:
Dr. Oz says suffocation caused by chest hugs is the leading cause of death for people with MS. Another leading cause? Suicide. "Folks just cannot take it," Dr. Oz says. "It just eats away at you from the inside." Direct from the Big "O's" website so there's no mincing of words here.
Good grief...where do I begin? WAIT! I have a profound idea!!! How about I begin with research and statistics?!?
Well...golly, Miss Molly. There's just not been a whole lot of research done when it comes to MS and suicide. "Why?" you ask, with puzzling look upon your face. That's because most mental health/suicide statistics focus primarily on MENTAL DISORDERS and suicide/lethality post mortem assessments. There is no standardized national or international data base that tracks suicide rates in relation to one particular physical disease or another (death, yes...suicide, no). And most funding for these expensive and long-term studies is awarded toward the monitoring of MENTAL ILLNESS as a premorbid factor in suicide...because let's face it...you'd HAVE to be mentally ill to kill yourself, right?!? Again...ahem. Tell THAT to any doctor assisted suicide voter in Oregon or Washington states.
The few research studies that HAVE been done date back to 1985, 1993, and 2003...and two of these three studies were conducted in Sweden and South Wales...small countries in funding and size compared to the USA, who continues to statically boast a most likely OUTDATED statistical count of people diagnosed with MS within it's borders - 400,000. That's been the MS head count for well over 10 years...but, I'm not going to tackle THAT figure here either, even though I disagree with the numbers (based upon current diagnostic availability, improved treatment modalities supporting longer life spans, etc., as compared to 10 years ago).
In 1985, a study was conducted in South Wales among 441 death certificates collected for more than 20 years of MS patients. This study found the median observed survival time for these MSers from symptom onset to death was 38.0 years (let's see...I was diagnosed at age 38 + 38.0, means I could live to be 74?!?...dear Lord, somebody call Dr. Kevorkian! I don't think I WANT to hang out until 74. LOL)...men and women in this study lived to a mean age of 65, with only a negligible 1/10th of a difference noted for women living with MS slightly longer. In 57.9% of those studied post mortem (dead), cause of death was related to MS...42.1% had cause of death unrelated to MS (and 27% of these patients didn't even HAVE MS on their death certificate,even though they HAD MS!). The most common cause of death was respiratory disease - 47.5%. **Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry 2008;79:1016-1021**
What the 1985 study concluded was, MS patients were almost 3X's more likely to die prematurely relative to the general population...but NOT from SUICIDE. (Give The Oz one point for identifying loosely "respiratory disease" as a common cause of death in MS - but NOT necessarily SUFFOCATION!) So, back to SUICIDE and MS...
In 1993, the National Center for the Study and Prevention of Suicide got a tiny little grant to study a sample of 24 MS "subjects" who had completed suicide (this is in the USA, peeps). They compared 22 MS "subjects" who had made nonfatal suicide attempts along with 22 non-suicidal MS "subjects"...math says (or calculator) this was a total of 68 MS "subjects" - 24 who were deceased with cause of death deemed suicide. Not a HUGE collection of "subjects" if you ask me...but they didn't, so I'll go on.
The results of the above study indicated that suicide completers were more likely to be male (and BTW, males routinely choose far more lethal means of suicide, such as hanging, fire arm, or jumping, while women OD, slit wrists, etc...this is from my OWN practical 23 year experience and, based upon my belief women routinely don't like to leave a mess...seriously.), unemployed, experiencing financial stress, and who USED A GUN TO COMMIT SUICIDE (see? Told ya so). This study goes on to say MS suicide completers were also more severely disabled, in a late stage/phase of MS, and who displayed signs of unendurable psychic pain. **Neurorehabilitiation and Neural Repair, Vol. 7, No. 2, 53-62 (1993)**
And now, on to where most of the websites get their wide range of quoted statistics when referring to the elevated suicide risk among MS patients...you may have noted (but I doubt it...few people want to READ about MS and suicide!) on many websites, there is a discrepancy in figures regarding just how "at risk" MSers are to commit suicide...usually ranging from between 2X to 15X more likely to die from self-inflicted injury, AKA, suicide.
In 2003, **Fredrikson, S., Cheng, Q, Jiang GX and Wasserman D (2003), Neuroepidemiology 22:146-52.** did a little study in Sweden. They felt that results of previous studies of suicide risk among MS patients were inconsistent (duh!)...so they did their OWN. During the years 1969 and 1996, they looked at hospital patients (some 77,377 admissions and 12,834, where MS was recorded as a primary or secondary diagnosis at time of discharge)...and they followed these cases for approximately 10 years (9.9 mean, to be exact). They then linked these cases to the Swedish Cause of Death Register and found 5,052 had died during the course of this study...90, of which, were deemed to have died from suicide (1.8% suicide rate)...of that 90, most committed suicide within 5.8 years from the time of discharge from the hospital (it is not clear WHEN they were diagnosed with MS specifically in the study).
These investigators calculated the risk factor for suicide as a cause of death in THIS particular study was 2.3 times greater than the general population...in both male and females (although males once again demonstrated a significantly higher rate than females). Of important note is, "suicide risk was particularly higher in the first year after initial diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis and this occurred most frequently among YOUNG MALE MSers". The mean age of successful suicide among the 90 dead was 44.5 years old (whew! I passed that, but I'm STILL eyeing that "74" age lifespan up there with a *fish eye*)...55% of all these 90 suicides were committed in the first 5 years after the first admission to the hospital with an MS diagnosis. So, yes...we're all keenly aware (those of with MS, that is), that first year of diagnosis is a BETCH...and the next five aren't so sweet either!
So...here's my bone of contention with you, Dr. Oz. You are misquoting scientifically studied DATA and proven fact. Yes, it IS true those diagnosed with MS have a higher incident of committing suicide than Joe Blow Healthy off the street. But suicide is NOT found to be a number one or two or even three cause of death among MSers! Yeah, we "just can't take it" as you are quoted to say...but still we DO...every day until we die, the majority of us...and NOT because of suffocation as you were so inaccurately quoted to say. We die from the same cancers, heart disease, strokes, ebola, cat scratch fever, and CRAP everybody else croaks from.
Yes, it IS true we have a higher risk of contracting "other" diseases because of our immune systems (often compromised by medications, etc.) and our sometimes decreased mobility (which makes us more susceptible to pneumonia's, blood clots, etc...because we just aren't moving around as much sometimes, in comparison to Joe Blow Healthy). But MS is (most often speaking here) NOT THE PRIMARY CAUSE OF OUR DEATHS...it is a secondary FACTOR/DISEASE CONTRIBUTING to the cause of our deaths. Even the all-knowing-all-seeing-corner-of-MS-Society...THE NATIONAL MS SOCIETY...has issued a statement (far nicer than mine), saying your blatant misinformation sucks...check it out here...and I don't usually quote ANYTHING they say because of religious philosophical differences...they think they're God and I don't. LOL
So, in conclusion, I'm rather fortunate I DIDN'T see Montel crying or the Big "O" actually saying she didn't know much about MS or Dr. OZ pulling such crap statements out of his arse no one even needed to smell his fingers to know where his statistics came from! I might have become HOMICIDAL...and there just AREN'T any statistics about Multiple Sclerosis and homicide...but, I might have started a trend...LOL...