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July 25, 1977

Suicide by Patient: Criminal Charge Against Physician

Author Affiliations

Camarillo State Hospital Camarillo, Calif

JAMA. 1977;238(4):305. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03280040025008

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To the Editor.—  A a resident in psychiatry at Camarillo State Hospital on May 13, 1976, I admitted six acutely disturbed patients shortly after midnight. Among them was a depressed man with suicidal ideation who was found dead approximately six hours later, his body suspended from a metal shower curtain rod by his own belt.The Ventura County Grand Jury included this case in their investigation of so-called suspicious deaths over the preceding three years at Camarillo, and on the Friday morning of December 17, 1976, I was indicted. The charges were for violation of California penal code No. 361, a misdemeanor offense pertaining to neglectful treatment of insane persons.That same morning, I went through a booking procedure at the Ventura County Jail. This involved approximately three hours in a locked holding tank and included a thorough search by deputies of my person, the temporary surrender of my belt,