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The Physician's Responsibility for Suicide. II. Errors of Omission

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▸Requests for reprints should be addressed to Dr. George Murphy, Renard Hospital, 4940 Audubon Avenue, Saint Louis, MO 63110.

Saint Louis, Missouri

Ann Intern Med. 1975;82(3):305-309. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-82-3-305
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Forty-nine out of 60 persons who committed suicide had been under the care of 71 physicians within 6 months or less before committing suicide. Over two thirds of the patients had histories of suicide attempts or threats. These histories were known to only two fifths of the physicians responsible for their care, despite the information being readily available from other sources. There was substantial evidence of depressive illness in three quarters of the patients, yet the diagnosis was rarely made except by psychiatrists, and therefore the depression was rarely treated. Although a few patients had been recognized as representing suicidal risk, the great majority had not. The failure to diagnose and to treat depressive illness and the failure to be informed about the risk factors in these cases represent missed opportunities for preventive intervention.







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