Self-poisoning suicide deaths in England: Could improved medical management contribute to suicide prevention

N. Kapur, C. Clements, N. Bateman, B. Foëx, K. Mackway-Jones, K. Hawton, D. Gunnell

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    Background: Suicide by self-poisoning is a major cause of death worldwide. Few studies have investigated the medical management of fatal self-poisoning. Aim: To describe the characteristics and management of a national sample of individuals who died by intentional self-poisoning in hospital and assess the quality of care that they received. Design: National population-based descriptive study and confidential inquiry. Methods: Adults (aged >16 years) who had died by self-poisoning in English hospitals in 2005 and received a coroner's verdict of suicide or undetermined death at inquest were included. Socio-demographic and clinical data were collected through detailed questionnaires sent to clinicians at the treating hospitals. A panel of three expert assessors rated each case with respect to quality of care and likely contribution to the fatal outcome. Results: We obtained information on 121 cases (response rate for questionnaires 77%). Expert assessors rated 41/104 cases [39% (95% CI 30-49%)] as having received inadequate care; in the majority (38/41-93%) of these, this poor care was felt to have potentially contributed to the patient's death. The most common reason for a rating of inadequate care was poor airway management (recorded in over half of inadequate care cases). In three cases, the receipt of inadequate care was associated with the presence of some form of advance directive. Conclusions: In as many as 39% of in-hospital self-poisoning fatalities, the care received may be in some way sub-optimal. The challenge for clinical services is to ensure that optimal management strategies are implemented in practice. © The Author 2010. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Association of Physicians. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article numberhcq128
    Pages (from-to)765-775
    Number of pages10
    JournalQJM: an international journal of medicine
    Issue number10
    Publication statusPublished - 4 Aug 2010


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