Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BACKGROUND: Suicide by self-poisoning is a major cause of death worldwide. Few studies have investigated the medical management of fatal self-poisoning. AIM: To describe the characteristics and management of a national sample of individuals who died by intentional self-poisoning in hospital and assess the quality of care that they received. DESIGN: National population-based descriptive study and confidential inquiry. METHODS: Adults (aged ≥ 16 years) who had died by self-poisoning in English hospitals in 2005 and received a coroner's verdict of suicide or undetermined death at inquest were included. Socio-demographic and clinical data were collected through detailed questionnaires sent to clinicians at the treating hospitals. A panel of three expert assessors rated each case with respect to quality of care and likely contribution to the fatal outcome. RESULTS: We obtained information on 121 cases (response rate for questionnaires 77%). Expert assessors rated 41/104 cases [39% (95% CI 30-49%)] as having received inadequate care; in the majority (38/41-93%) of these, this poor care was felt to have potentially contributed to the patient's death. The most common reason for a rating of inadequate care was poor airway management (recorded in over half of inadequate care cases). In three cases, the receipt of inadequate care was associated with the presence of some form of advance directive. CONCLUSION: In as many as 39% of in-hospital self-poisoning fatalities, the care received may be in some way sub-optimal. The challenge for clinical services is to ensure that optimal management strategies are implemented in practice.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





765 - 775


Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Airway Management, England, Epidemiologic Methods, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Poisoning, Quality of Health Care, Socioeconomic Factors, Suicide, Young Adult