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What to do when a patient commits suicide

  • Nicola Hodelet (a1) and Mark Hughson (a2)
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A patient has committed suicide. You are his/her doctor. You're faced with the emotional impact this has on yourself, your colleagues, the patient's family and your other patients. You must report the suicide to your hospital authority and to the coroner (or procurator fiscal in Scotland). If you're very unlucky, you may be the focus of media attention. You have the prospect of a coroner's (or fatal accident) inquiry, a hospital inquiry and perhaps copycat suicides or para-suicides among your other patients. What are your obligations, where do you turn for help and can anything positive come from the experience?

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Copyright
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
References
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Chemtob, C. M., Hamade, R. S., Bauer, G., et al (1988) Patients' suicides: frequency and impact on psychiatrists. American Journal of Psychiatry, 145, 224228.
Cotton, P. G., Drake, R. E., Whitaker, A., et al (1983) Dealing with suicide on a psychiatric inpatient unit. Hospital and Community Psychiatry, 34, 5559.
Hodgkinson, P. E. (1987) Responding to in-patient suicide. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 60, 387392.
Kaye, N. S. & Soreff, S. M. (1991) The psychiatrist's role, responses, and responsibilities when a patient commits suicide. American Journal of Psychiatry, 148, 739743.
Little, J. D. (1992) Staff response to inpatient and outpatient suicide: what happened and what do we do? Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 26, 162167.
Schneidman, E. S. (1969) Suicide, lethality and the psychological autopsy. International Psychiatry Clinics, 6, 225250.
Schneidman, E. S. (1981) The psychological autopsy. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behaviour, 11, 325340.
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BJPsych Bulletin
  • ISSN: 0955-6036
  • EISSN: 1472-1473
  • URL: /core/journals/bjpsych-bulletin
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What to do when a patient commits suicide

  • Nicola Hodelet (a1) and Mark Hughson (a2)
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