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The Limitations of Official Suicide Statistics

  • Ian O'Donnell (a1) and Richard Farmer (a2)
Abstract
Background

This study explored some of the problems associated with current procedures for the ascertainment of suicide.

Method

A sample of 242 deaths which were known to have been self-inflicted was followed up through the coroners' courts where causes of death were legally established.

Results

Verdicts other than suicide were returned on half of the men, and on one-quarter of the women.

Conclusions

For suicide statistics to become valid indicators of suicide rates it might be more appropriate to apply the civil, rather than the criminal, standard of proof during inquest proceedings.

Copyright
Corresponding author
Dr I. O'Donnell, University of Oxford, Centre for Criminological Research, 12 Bevington Road, Oxford OX2 6LH
References
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Byard, R. W., Hucker, S. J. & Hazelwood, R. R. (1993) Fatal and near-fatal autoerotic asphyxial episodes in women. American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 14, 7073.
Clarke-Finnegan, M. & Fahy, T. J. (1983) Suicide rates in Ireland. Psychological Medicine, 13, 385391.
Douglas, J. D. (1967) The Social Meanings of Suicide. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Farmer, R. D. T. (1988) Assessing the epidemiology of suicide and parasuicide. British Journal of Psychiatry, 153, 1620.
Farmer, R. D. T. & Rohde, J. (1980) Effect of availability and acceptability of lethal instruments on suicide mortality: An analysis of some international data. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 62, 436446.
Jobes, D. A., Berman, A. L. & Josselson, A. R. (1987) Improving the validity and reliability of medical-legal certifications of suicide. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 17, 310325.
Ovenstone, I. M. K. (1973) A psychiatric approach to the diagnosis of suicide and its effect upon the Edinburgh statistics. British Journal of Psychiatry, 123, 1521.
Phillips, D. P. (1979) Suicide, motor vehicle fatalities and the mass media: Evidence towards a theory of suggestion. American Journal of Sociology, 84, 11501174.
Taylor, S. (1982) Durkheim and the Study of Suicide. Basingstoke: Macmillan.
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The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: 0007-1250
  • EISSN: 1472-1465
  • URL: /core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry
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The Limitations of Official Suicide Statistics

  • Ian O'Donnell (a1) and Richard Farmer (a2)
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