By Declan Murray & Patrick Devitt
March 28, 2017
It is 4 p.m. on Friday afternoon. "My wife is suicidal, Doctor. If you don't
admit her to the hospital, you'll have blood on your hands on Monday..."
If the apparently suicidal patient is not hospitalized it could be a
difficult weekend for the patient, of course, but also for the
understandably worried spouse and even the psychiatrist. The psychiatrist
would be aware that the guidelines for patients with suicidal behaviors
recommend estimating the likelihood of suicide by combining clinical
findings (such as suicidal thoughts and behaviors) with multiple risk
factors to judge the seriousness of the suicide risk. The guidelines go on
to suggest that if the patient does die by suicide that psychiatrists should
contact their attorney. When the risk of suicide is high, it is not
surprising that doctors often take what seems to be the safest option and
arrange for hospital admission.