ER Workers Often Fail to Ask Suicidal Patients About Access to Guns04/03/13
WEDNESDAY, April 3 (HealthDay News) -- Many doctors and nurses
in U.S. emergency rooms don't ask suicidal patients if they have
access to guns, even though guns are used in more than half of all
suicides in the country.
That's the finding of researchers who surveyed 631 ER doctors
and nurses in eight hospitals.
"In our study, less than half of emergency room medical providers believe most or all suicides are preventable and many rarely ask about the availability of firearms," lead author Dr. Marian Betz, of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, said in a university news release. "There is a great opportunity to save lives here that many are not taking advantage of."
She and her colleagues found that 44 percent of doctors and 67
percent of nurses believed that most or all people who commit
suicide by gun would find another way to kill themselves if the gun
was not available to them.
The study, published in the March issue of the journal
Depression and Anxiety, also found that 49 percent of
doctors and 72 percent of nurses said they "hardly ever" tell
suicidal patients or their families to remove or lock up guns at
The percentage of doctors and nurses who "almost always" asked
patients about their access to guns varied depending on the
- 64 percent said they would almost always ask if the patient had
an actual plan to commit suicide with a gun.
- 22 percent said they would ask if the patient was suicidal but
had no suicide plan.
- 21 percent said they would ask if the patient had a suicide
plan not involving a firearm.
- 16 percent said they would ask if the patient had been suicidal
in past month but was not today.
- 9 percent said they would ask if the patient had overdosed but
was no longer suicidal.
In 2010, 38,000 people committed suicide in the United States
and another 465,000 were treated in ERs for self-inflicted
injuries, according to the release. In the year before they died,
40 percent of people who killed themselves visited an ER at least
"This is an opportunity for intervention but very often [doctors and nurses] don't know how to react or they think someone else should ask about firearms," said Betz, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the CU School of Medicine. "Some have an aversion to getting into an area so fraught with politics. This is not an issue of gun control; it's a safety issue for patients in crisis."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more
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