Management of the suicidal patient in the era of defensive medicine: Focus on suicide risk assessment and boundaries of responsibility

Avi Bleich, Yehuda Baruch, Shmuel Hirschmann, Gad Lubin, Yuval Melamed, Zvi Zemishlany, Ze'ev Kaplan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Suicide is universal within the range of human behaviors and is not necessarily related to psychiatric morbidity, though it is considerably more prevalent among psychiatric patients. Considering the limitations of medical knowledge, psychiatrists cope with an unfounded and almost mythical perception of their ability to predict and prevent suicide. We set out to compose a position paper for the Israel Psychiatric Association (IPA) that clarifies expectations from psychiatrists when treating suicidal patients, focusing on risk assessment and boundaries of responsibility, in the era of defensive medicine. The final draft of the position paper was by consensus. The IPA Position Paper established the first standard of care concerning expectations from psychiatrists in Israel with regard to knowledge-based assessment of suicide risk, elucidation of the therapist's responsibility to the suicidal psychotic patient (defined by law) compared to patients with preserved reality testing, capacity for choice, and responsibility for their actions. Therapists will be judged for professional performance rather than outcomes and wisdom of hindsight. This paper may provide support for psychiatrists who, with clinical professionalism rather than extenuating considerations of defensive medicine, strive to save the lives of suicidal patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)653-656
Number of pages4
JournalIsrael Medical Association Journal
Volume13
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2011

Keywords

  • Prevention
  • Reality testing
  • Social responsibility
  • Suicide
  • Suicide risk

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