Factors associated with autopsy rates in a 6-year sample of Danish suicides in the Capital area of Copenhagen

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningfagfællebedømt

Astrid Kerstine Buch, Johannes Busch, Seija Ylijoki-Sørensen, Jytte Banner

On average, two suicides occur in Denmark every day. In order to prevent suicides, it is important to understand their nature. The forensic autopsy plays an important role by providing detailed knowledge of the cause and manner of death. Unfortunately, the autopsy rate for suicides in Denmark is very low. The aim of this study was to elucidate the factors that may affect the decision to perform a forensic autopsy and thereby affect the autopsy rate of suicidal deaths in the Capital area of Copenhagen. Data from 6211 death certificates from the Capital area of Copenhagen, Denmark, over a study period of six years, were investigated. For deaths classified as suicide, the presence of the following factors were registered: gender, age, date of birth, date of death, marital status, nationality, place of death, cause of death, psychiatric condition, former admissions at a psychiatric ward, former attempts of suicide, presence of suicide note, history of substance abuse (alcohol, narcotics or both), and presence of self-inflicted scars. These factors were cross-tabulated with whether a referral to a forensic autopsy was made. Significant association was calculated by using Chi2 and Fisher's exact test. We found a total of 381 cases of suicide. The forensic autopsy rate was 21.3%. The following factors were associated with a significantly lower forensic autopsy rate: age above 50, history of psychiatric illness, the presence of a suicide letter, and cause of death registered as hanging/strangulation/suffocation, drowning/submersion, self-harm with sharp object, and jumping from height. Only the presence of a suicide letter remained significant after the Bonferroni correction for multiple testing. History of substance abuse and cause of death registered as intentional exposure to smoke, fire and flames were associated with a significantly higher forensic autopsy rate. A forensic autopsy can give more precise information on suicide methods, the impact of fatal lesions and comorbidity. Our study results showed that violent methods of suicidal death and psychiatric comorbidity led to a lower forensic autopsy rate. A higher autopsy rate would enable more thorough study and investigation of suicides, which would benefit the next-of-kin, general preventive procedures, and treatment of patients at risk of suicide.

OriginalsprogEngelsk
TidsskriftJournal of Forensic and Legal Medicine
Vol/bind60
Sider (fra-til)50-55
ISSN1752-928X
DOI
StatusUdgivet - nov. 2018

ID: 203881244