Doctor Warns Colleagues to Comprehensively Assess Suicide Risk to Avoid Malpractice
During a presentation, Phillip J. Resnick, MD, of Case Western Reserve University, outlined how to comprehensively assess patients for suicide risk based on his experience with malpractice lawsuits involving patient suicide.
“If you have a patient in the hospital commit suicide, there’s a 50% chance that a lawsuit will follow,” Resnick said. “If you have an outpatient commit suicide, there’s a 25% chance that a lawsuit will follow.”
To protect against a successful malpractice suit, Resnick explained the suicide risk factors clinicians should look for and classify. Dynamic risk factors are subject to change by intervention. These include current suicidal thoughts, current psychiatric illness, substance abuse, unemployment, hopelessness, lack of social support, and life crises such as rejection or a fall in status.
Static risk factors are not subject to change by intervention. These include being male, white, adolescent or unmarried, and past suicide attempts, family history of suicide attempts and chronic medical illness.