The physician's involvement in a death caused by violence has been limited until recently to giving expert testimony. The doctor merely assisted legal authorities in pinpointing the time of death or in clarifying the nature of sustained injuries. To this traditional role has now been added another —one much more meaningful and responsible. The physician is expected to help prevent the violent act—obviously no small responsibility—through early recognition of its threat in his emotionally disturbed patients.
Early recognition of danger signs in a potential suicide or homicide may not be too difficult. Solomon (this issue p 321) finds that most candidates for these acts suffer from affective disorders, and because of this they are usually seen by a doctor shortly before death. The confrontation between the emotionally ill patient and the physician gives the latter a unique opportunity for the assessment of risk. As an aid in this assessment, Solomon
THE BURDEN OF RESPONSIBILITY. JAMA. 1967;199(5):334. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03120050076017