Volume 32, Issue 2 (March 1987)
The Psychiatrist's Role in Retrospective Determination of Suicide: An Uncertain Science
Psychiatrists have made significant contributions to our understanding of the phenomenon of suicide and are generally regarded as experts in all matters relating to suicide. When a legal determination must be made as to whether an individual has died as a result of suicide or by accidental (or any other) means, psychiatrists are often called upon to proffer their expert opinion to assist the courts to resolve the matter. Two case illustrations are presented and analyzed in which psychiatrists were called upon to make such retrospective determinations of suicide. The question is raised as to whether psychiatrists may sometimes exceed the limits of their scientific expertise in making such determinations.