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Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2006 Sep;29(3):805-22.

The psychological autopsy: solving the mysteries of death.

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Division of Psychiatry and the Law, University of California, Davis Medical Center, 2230 Stockton Boulevard, 2nd Floor Medical Center, Sacramento, CA 95817, USA.


The psychological autopsy is an important assessment tool used to identify aspects of a person's life that explain any lingering mystery that shrouds their death. In addition to answering questions of the past, the psychological autopsy has significant implications for the future. Statistics obtained from mortality data affect the course of health care research, the flow of resources, and ultimately public health policy. From a public health perspective, the misclassification of suicides as accidents or deaths from natural causes can negatively affect research funding and policy development related to suicide prevention efforts, making a standardized and accurate procedure imperative. Although the psychological autopsy was developed initially as a tool to assist the coroner in clarifying the cause of death, this procedure has transcended the confines of forensic science and has applications in the many arenas of litigation and public health policy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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