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HomeBest Practices → Watch for the Signs: Screen All Patients for Suicidal Thoughts

Watch for the Signs: Screen All Patients for Suicidal Thoughts Print E-mail
Written by The Doctors Company   
Thursday, 08 December 2016 00:00

The suicide of a patient is a tragedy for any physician.

Patients with suicidal thoughts or ideation appear occasionally in physician encounters. The Joint Commission recently noted that the rate of suicide is increasing, and suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.1 Most people who commit suicide received healthcare services in the year prior to death, usually for reasons other than mental health issues or suicidal thoughts. It's a strong reminder that any patient-no matter what issue is being treated and in any setting-could be at risk for suicide.

The patient's well-being should be the primary concern, but physicians also must consider the potential legal liability that can come from failing to adequately screen patients for suicide risk and taking the proper steps when needed. The remorse a physician may face over missing signs can be compounded by legal action claiming the physician is accountable for the patient's demise. A consistent and formal screening process, plus a response plan, will protect both the patient and the physician.

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