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Postgrad Med J. 1994 June; 70(824): 428–432.
PMCID: PMC2397715

Clinical contact preceding suicide.


Of the 400 consecutive completed suicides investigated over a 5-year period, 114 (28.5%) who had consulted a doctor in the week preceding death were specifically reviewed and compared with those who did not. The study comprised an analysis of the medical history, the scene of death and a complete autopsy with histological and toxicological examination and the identification of features which occurred more frequently in this group when compared with other suicides not contacting their doctors. Suicide-associated factors include psychiatric illness (58.8%), deteriorating health (16.7%), and a loss of spouse (7.0%); all these features were manifested by this group of suicides more frequently than by those who made no clinical contact (P < 0.001). A pre-indication of suicidal intention was made by 45% of these patients. This feature, as with previous attempts, occurred more commonly in patients who consulted a doctor (P < 0.001). Drug overdose was the most common suicidal method chosen (50.9%) and anti-depressants predominated (35%); 78% of those who overdosed ingested prescribed drugs. Poisoning was more common in this group (P < 0.001). Half of the victims committed suicide within 24 hours following consultation; of these, 51% overdosed on drugs with 61% of them ingesting their prescribed drugs. Of these 114 cases, the final consultation in 43% was to collect more drugs. All suicidal threats should be taken seriously, and particular care should be taken in prescribing and dispensing medication which may be fatal in overdose.

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