Effective programs and strategies on suicide prevention: Combination of review of systematic reviews with expert opinions

Background Suicide is a complex and ongoing public health crisis which is a misinterpreted course of death that strongly affects communities’ and individuals’ mental health and quality of life. Health managers often do not have adequate information for decision making on what strategy makes an effective impact on suicide prevention. Despite the availability of global […]

Degree of Proof Necessary to Establish Proximate Causation of Suicide

This article discusses the case of Thompson versus Patton in which the Supreme Court of Alabama reviewed the trial court’s decision to grant a motion for summary judgment in favour of the defendant in a malpractice suit alleging negligence by a psychiatrist who discharged a patient from the hospital 3 days before the patient’s suicide. […]

The Standard of Care in Suicide Risk Assessment: an Elusive Concept

Suicide risk assessment is a core competency requirement in the residency training of psychiatrists. The purpose of suicide risk assessment is to identify high-risk suicide factors, & available protective factors that inform patient treatment & safety management. The standard of care varies according to state statutory definitions & no single source or authority defines standard […]

Suicide Risk Assessment: is Clinical Experience Enough?

Psychiatrists are expected to possess core competencies in suicide risk assessment & in evidence-based psychiatry. The author asserts clinical experience alone is usually insufficient to support a competent suicide risk assessment. Clinical experience can be augumented with evidence-based psychiatry, the evaluation of protective factors, the unique & distinctive patient risk & protective factors for which […]

On Sound and Unsound Mind: the Role of Suicide in Tort and Insurance Litigation


Standard-of-care Testimony: Best Practices or Reasonable Care?

Daubert and Suicide Risk of Antidepressants in Children

The Psychological Autopsy: Science or Junk Science?

This editorial discusses the legal status of suicidologists’ testimony as expert testimony. The author describes the American Federal Rules of Evidence legislation (also known as the Daubert test). According to the author, while psychological autopsies satisfied criteria under previous legislation, the induction of the Daubert test allows a trial judge to decide reliability based on […]

The Validity of Repressed Memories and the Accuracy of Their Recall Through Hypnosis: a Case Study From the Courtroom

This report is on the case of a 50-year-old male who was on trial for the murder of his wife. The defendant had repressed the events surrounding the crime & hypnosis was used to recover those memories. Based on the information gathered, the murder charge was reduced to manslaughter – the wife had been shot […]

The Psychological Autopsy: a Useful Tool for Determining Proximate Causation in Suicide Cases

The use of the psychological autopsy method in determining proximate causation in suicide cases is examined. The history of the psychological autopy & its procedures are reviewed. A variety of cases, including criminal proceedings, are used to illustrate the applications of this method. The article ends with a discussion of the issues raised in the […]

Letters Across the Atlantic – Tenth Letter in a Series

Berman discusses the term “standard of care” which arises in US court cases when it is believed that a physician has failed to fulfill his responsibilities for a patient (e.g. in the case of a patient’s suicide). Berman notes 3 problems: the definition of “standard of care” is vague; that often it is not expert […]

Responsibility and Liability for Suicide (IN: The Psychology of Suicide: a Clinician’s Guide to Evaluation and Treatment, edited by E S Shneidman, N L Farberow & R E Litman)

This chapter discusses liability as it relates to both in- & outpatient suicide. 5 cases in which the author acted as an expert witness are used to highlight a review of medical malpractice & standards of care. Issues such as the assessment of suicide potential & measures taken to protect patients against themselves are also […]

Bioethics on Trial

The author, a bioethicist, describes his experience when he was asked to testify as an expert witness for the prosecution at the January 1991 trial of Dr. Jack Kevorkian. Caplan only agreed to testify with great reluctance as he does not believe that there necessarily is a place for bioethicists at legal trials. His main […]

Litigation of Suicide Cases and Equivocal Deaths

This proceeding describes a paper that analyzes the legal presentation of the testimony of suicidologists as expert opinion in litigation cases in the United States. The paper analyses 24 legal cases for type of suicide litigation, non-medically trained suicidologists as experts, investigative procedures for cases of suicide, & application of suicidologist testimony in legal cases. […]

The Psychological Autopsy in the Courtroom: Contributions of the Social Sciences to Resolving Issues Surrounding Equivocal Death

A psychological autopsy is broadly defined by the author as a procedure in which a deceased person’s state of mind prior to his or her death is reconstructed. The purpose is to resolve questions surrounding equivocal deaths, most commonly the quest as to whether the death was an accident or suicide. Chapters include procedure definition, […]

Malpractice in Psychiatry: Standards of Care and the Expert Witness

The increase in psychiatry malpractice cases is discussed & factors associated with the increase are examined. Vulnerable areas for psychiatrists include patient suicide, abnormal response to medication, consent, confidentiality, mishandling of transferance, civil rights abuse of patients, & prediction of dangerousness. The psychiatrist’s role as expert witness is described & other legal issues such as […]

Adolescence and the Right to Die: Issues of Autonomy, Competence, and Paternalism (Micro ED225096)

A paper addressing some of the legal and ethical components of the right to die issue, including some developmental aspects unique to adolescents. Two case studies are considered. The paper concludes with a discussion of the roles of psychologists as counselors, assessors of competence levels and as expert witnesses. (KB)

Scandal in Hong Kong

Article discusses the findings of an inquest into the death of a Hong Kong policeman who was alleged to have committed suicide due to homosexual accusations. After hearing forensic evidence, it is concluded that the death of the officer was a suicide.

Hospital Suicides: Lawsuits and Standards

Based on personal experience as an expert witness in litigation following hospital suicides, the following recommendations are made: every hospital should have a Suicide Prevention Committee which establishes written guidelines after surveying security areas & talking with staff & patients, reasonable treatment require that each patient be evaluated for suicide risk, that a treatment plan […]

Suicide and Malpractice: Expert Testimony and the Standard of Care

This research indicates that the suicidal outcome of a case does not bias judgements made about the care given. In general, professional groups tended to agree about the level of care given in the test case. However, the more extensive the involvement one has in suicidology, the greater the gap one perceives between typical & […]