What are treatment considerations for a suicidal patient?

Updated: Sep 02, 2020
  • Author: Louise B Andrew, MD, JD; Chief Editor: Barry E Brenner, MD, PhD, FACEP  more...
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Suicidality-associated treatment pitfalls include the following:

  • Failure to recognize or appropriately hospitalize a suicidal patient

  • Failure to document historical details demonstrating lack of suicidality

  • Failure to follow transfer protocols in accordance with the Emergency Medicine Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) - Note that under current EMTALA interpretations, even a discharge is considered a transfer

  • Failure to prescribe suicide precautions for a possibly suicidal patient who is discharged to an institutional setting (such as a correctional facility) rather than a psychiatric setting

  • Failure to warn others of any threat made concerning them by a patient who is not to be admitted to protective custody

  • Failure to provide a source of follow-up care or to advise on indications to return to the emergency department

  • Failure to warn patient and significant others about potential signs of deterioration and suicidality and what to do about them [36]

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