This article discusses five core ethical and clinical questions psychiatrists should consider when they treat patients with borderline personality disorder who are or may be suicidal. These questions include whether psychiatrists should tell patients their diagnosis, what they should tell them about their suicide risk, whether they should be “always” available by phone, when they should hospitalize these patients involuntarily, and how they should respond after these patients have attempted suicide and return for further care. This discussion highlights the ethical components of these questions. Optimal ethical and clinical interventions, in most cases, overlap. Psychiatrists may accomplish the most clinically by sharing with these patients some of the above conflicts that they face and/or the rationales for doing what they will do. These interventions may maximize the autonomy patients with borderline personality disorder and at the same time be clinically optimal, increasing a sense of self-efficacy and patient-psychiatrist trust in the patients.
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