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Assessing and Managing Suicide Risk

Guidelines for Clinically Based Risk Management

Robert I. Simon, M.D.

  • ISBN 978-1-58562-122-4
  • Item #62122
Winner of the 2005 Manfred S. Guttmacher Award

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Patient suicide is an unavoidable occupational hazard of psychiatric practice. Indeed, it is the rare clinician who does not struggle, even agonize, over the complex task of assessing and managing the risk of suicide in patients. Patient suicides account for the greatest number of malpractice suits filed against psychiatrists and for the greatest number of settlements and verdicts covered by professional liability insurers.

In this book, written by a clinician for clinicians, Dr. Simon, an established expert in psychiatry and law, offers

  • A solid, easy-to-understand review of how medical malpractice law applies to patient suicides. He discusses the standards of care physicians must meet, the conditions associated with malpractice liability, and how best to minimize risks of litigation.
  • Extensive references to peer-reviewed literature on suicide and recent malpractice cases, including those triggered by patient suicides, which give insight into the latest developments in both the scientific community and the courts.
  • Much-needed practical advice, including advice on working with suicide risk assessments and suicide prevention contracts, on treating suicidal patients in various settings (outpatient, inpatient, collaborative, and emergency), and on coping with issues arising in the aftermath of a patient's suicide (documentation, confidentiality, and survivor care).
  • Clearly defined risk management guidelines that will help clinicians avoid litigation or establish a sound legal defense if sued for malpractice.
  • Numerous case examples that make the theoretical discussions and clinically based risk management guidelines that follow come alive.

Rich in advice that draws on the author's more than 40 years of clinical experience, this book serves as an essential aid to clinicians.


  • Foreword
  • Preface
  • Chapter 1. Suicide and Malpractice Litigation
  • Chapter 2. Suicide Risk Assessment
  • Chapter 3. Suicide Prevention Contracts
  • Chapter 4. Outpatients
  • Chapter 5. Collaborative Treatment
  • Chapter 6. Inpatients
  • Chapter 7. Emergency Psychiatric Services
  • Chapter 8. Suicide Aftermath: Documentation, Confidentiality, and Survivor Care
  • Index of Legal Cases and Statutes
  • Subject Index

About the Authors

Robert I. Simon, M.D., is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Program in Psychiatry and Law at Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, DC, and Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland.

Dr. Robert I. Simon, one of the most prolific writers in the field of law and psychiatry, has made a significant contribution to the literature with his book on assessing suicide risk. Dr. Simon, who has had over 40 years of clinical experience in treating psychiatric patients, shares his vast knowledge of the law regulating psychiatric practice with respect to suicide risk in patients. He has advised all of us how to assess and manage suicide risk in a most comprehensive and readable fashion. As always, Bob Simon's books make sense and are extremely helpful to the practicing psychiatrist. This book is no exception.—Robert L. Sadoff, M.D., Clinical Professor of Psychiatry; Director, Center for Studies in Social-Legal Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Condensing the immense amount of literature on this subject into one book, while ensuring it maintains its clinical focus, proves quite challenging. Yet, Dr. Simon imparts his vast clinical experience and keen forensic knowledge in a book that is both readable and educational.—Steven T. Herron, M.D., Doody's Book Reviews, 2/1/2005

I did not hesitate to accept the opportunity to review Robert Simon's latest book on suicide. I have come to expect great things from him over the years. This book is not a disappointment. It is an easy and enjoyable read, informative, filled with relevant and interesting clinical cases, and built around an inescapable reality.—Robert O. Pasnau, M.D., The American Journal of Psychiatry, 2/1/2005

It should be read by clinical practitioners of all stripes.—Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 2/1/2005

The book describes in fluid text and detailed terms the intricacies of malpractice litigation, suicide assessment and management, and suicide aftermath. Each chapter includes relevant case studies that aptly exemplify the variety of situations that psychiatrists may face in treating suicidal patients. Additionally, at the end of each chapter the preceding text is summarized in useful bullet points to reinforce central messages. Comprehensive reference lists are also included.—Psychiatric Times

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