Volume 19, Issue 2 (April 1974)
On the Improvement of Suicide Determination
Simply stated, suicide is intentional self-destruction. It is tempting to think of it as a clear-cut phenomenon with discrete borders. But every medical examiner and coroner knows the problem of deciding intent when the blood alcohol level is high and the barbiturate level low. The presence of a suicide note, verified to be in the victim's handwriting, may be accepted as reliable proof of suicide. But a note is found in no more than one third of cases judged to be suicide [1,2]. The criteria employed in the remainder of cases are unstated, although physical circumstances at the scene and toxicologic findings must be assumed to carry much weight. No set of established criteria or indices exists to guide the decision.