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May 1973

Body Donation and Suicide: Is there a Relationship?

Author Affiliations
St. LouisFrom the Department of Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis. Dr. Flanagan is now in private practice in Wellesley, Mass.
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1973;28(5):732-734. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1973.01750350100018

Because a caller offering to donate her body to the medical school expressed intention to commit suicide we examined the causes of death of persons whose personally donated bodies had been received by the Department of Anatomy over a 3½-year period. The proportion of suicides was greater than expected in a general population of like age. The mean interval between donation and death by suicide was 4.7 years, with no interval as short as two years. The corresponding mean interval for the remaining donors was 3.5 years. Although body donation may occasionally be prompted by thoughts of suicide, the risk is rarely immediate and donor rolls do not comprise a particularly rich source of potential suicides.