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Suicide and mental disorder: the legal perspective

Paul T Dignam
Med J Aust 2010; 193 (7): 430.
Published online: 4 October 2010

To the Editor: Pridmore1 describes a case in which a man’s recent actions suggested suicidal intent. The man told police he had no ongoing suicidal plans and they took his words at face value. He subsequently killed himself. The High Court exonerated the police of any responsibility, a decision that seemed based on two premises: that suicide does not presuppose mental disorder; and that “There is no general common law duty of care to rescue a person from harm, including self-harm”.2 There is sufficient grey in both those inter-related premises to make a black-and-white judgment suspect.

  • Paul T Dignam

  • Northern Region Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, Adelaide, SA.


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