Medical practitioners have a relatively high rate of suicide. Death entry data for doctors who died by suicide or undetermined cause between 1979 and 1995 in England and Wales were used to compare methods used for suicide by doctors with those used by the general population. Methods used were analysed according to gender, occupational status and speciality, to assess the extent to which access to dangerous means influences the pattern of suicide. Self‐poisoning with drugs was more common in the doctors than in general population suicides (57% vs. 26.6%; OR=3.65, 95% CI 2.85–4.68), including in retired doctors. Barbiturates were the most frequent drugs used. Half of the anaesthetists who died used anaesthetic agents. Self‐cutting was also more frequently used as a method of suicide. The finding that the greater proportion of suicide deaths in doctors were by self‐poisoning may reflect the fact that doctors have ready access to drugs, and have knowledge of which drugs and doses are likely to cause death. The specific finding that a large proportion of suicides in anaesthetists involved anaesthetic agents supports this explanation. Availability of method may be a factor contributing to the relatively high suicide rate of doctors. This fact might influence clinical management of doctors who are known to be depressed or suicidal.