Inuit suicide story bogus


IQALUIT — Editors of a prominent medical journal say they were tricked into publishing a phony account of an Inuit elder who committed suicide by walking out onto the sea ice.

The article, authored by medical student Shetal I. Shah, was published last October in the Journal of the American Medical Association. In it, Shaw wrote that while working in Western Alaska a few years ago, a 97-year-old Yup’ik Inuit killed himself by “vanishing into the early morning fog.”

But Shah’s former supervisor, Dr. Michael Swenson, said the medical student made up the whole story. He criticized Shah for perpetuating an outdated myth about Yup’ik Inuit, whose elders, he said, are less prone to despair and suicide than old people in Southern society.

JAMA’s editor, Dr. Catherine DeAngelis, said she was dismayed that Shah tricked the journal. She said JAMA checks the authenticity of stories that appear suspicious, but admitted the system isn’t flawless.

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