The postmortem proxy-based interview-future directions

Shelly S. Bakst, Tali Braun, Tamy Shohat

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The present study aims to provide an overview of the procedural and methodological challenges that need to be addressed when determining the content and application of postmortem proxy-based interviews and recommendations for meeting these challenges in future death investigations are outlined. Preliminary interview considerations are discussed and a step-by-step procedural algorithm for applying proxy-based interview protocol is supplied. A vulnerability-stress model is used for organizing the conceptualization of risk and protective factors into domains of theoretically similar factors. Techniques to improve data collected about mental disorders and stressful life events-variables addressed in nearly all psychological autopsy studies-are suggested, and the importance of examining certain understudied constructs (e.g., psychological factors, family history, select situational factors, childhood adversity, and protective factors) is emphasized. Given the convergence of findings across postmortem proxy-based interviews, whereby extracting postmortem psychiatric diagnoses is the rule, the next generation of studies must offer a point of departure from univariate models, by studying how and why well known exposures interact to produce suicide. In practical terms, targeting specific sub-populations and high-risk individuals can serve as the basis for constructing and testing different clinical hypothesis, which in turn may yield insights into the underlying etiological heterogeneity of suicide.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-56
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2016


  • Manner-of-death analysis
  • Postmortem diagnosis
  • Postmortem suicide risk assessment
  • Psychological autopsy
  • Retrospective suicide analysis


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