To the best of our knowledge the description of trigeminal neuralgia as the suicide disease originated in the late 19th century. During this time general brain surgery incurred a mortality rate of 90% and was considered tantamount to suicide by many. It goes without saying that brain surgery for TN was crude and dangerous, with doctors advocating either brain surgery or suicide as the only treatment options for desperate patients.
In 1900 the famed London neurologist David Ferrier, discussing the “ganglion operation” with a TN patient described it “as a last desperate resort – a polite way of committing suicide.”
So there you have it, a label born from the limitations and desperation of 19th century medicine that has managed to survive today’s arsenal of pharmaceutical, surgical and non-invasive treatment modalities.
Well it doesn’t have to be called the suicide disease any more. Medical professionals who are experts at treating TN can offer a myriad of treatments and pain management techniques. While every treatment plan does not work for every patient, to quote a renowned expert, “there are always options”.
Let’s leave the description “the suicide disease” where it belongs… back in the 19th century.