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date: 05 December 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Because of their focus on psychopathology, mental health clinicians may overlook the potential significance of medical illness as a risk factor for suicide. In this chapter, the author presents evidence that physical illness, particularly certain physical illnesses, can be independent risk factors for suicide. In a number of these illnesses, depression is clearly a confounding risk factor, while in others the illness itself or its consequent functional impairments may lead to increased risk. When an individual has multiple physical illnesses, as often happens with the elderly, the cumulative burden can become overwhelming and heighten the risk of suicide. When physical illness becomes terminal, the competent patient has the right to refuse life-sustaining treatment. Whether that individual can receive assistance in dying has been more controversial. The chapter concludes with a presentation of data from a state where assisted suicide, also known as assisted death, has been legalized.

Keywords: suicide, suicide risk, suicide in medical illness, suicide in physical illness, suicide in terminal illness, burden of illness, assisted suicide, assisted death

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