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Practice and Malpractice in the Evaluation of Suicidal Patients 

Practice and Malpractice in the Evaluation of Suicidal Patients
Chapter:
Practice and Malpractice in the Evaluation of Suicidal Patients
Author(s):

Gary Jacobson

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780199387106.003.0004
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date: 21 September 2019

This chapter discusses practice and malpractice in the evaluation of suicidal patients. Contemporary standards of care require a comprehensive assessment of suicide risk. Risk factors include ideation about suicide, death, or self-harm; a history of attempted suicide and a family history of suicide or a serious suicide attempt; diagnoses and symptoms that are correlated with an increased suicide risk; and stressors correlated with an increased risk of suicide in the short term. Protective factors include the presence of young children at home and religious beliefs. Hospitalization of a suicidal person does not necessarily eliminate the risk. Constant observation is usually required during the initial treatment period. Transferring care requires the transfer of explicit documentation, including the patient’s history of suicide risk, treatment efforts and their results, and plans for ensuring the patient’s safety during the transitional period between providers.

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