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BMC Med Ethics. 2018 Apr 10;19(1):26. doi: 10.1186/s12910-018-0265-6.

Skepticism towards the Swedish vision zero for suicide: interviews with 12 psychiatrists.

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Department of Learning, Informatics, Management and Ethics, Karolinska institutet, Tomtebodavägen 18A, 171 77, Stockholm, Sweden.
Department of Learning, Informatics, Management and Ethics, Karolinska institutet, Tomtebodavägen 18A, 171 77, Stockholm, Sweden.
National Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention of Mental Ill-Health, Karolinska institutet, Granits väg 4, 171 77, Stockholm, Sweden.



The main causes of suicide and how suicide could and should be prevented are ongoing controversies in the scientific literature as well as in public media. In the bill on public health from 2008 (Prop 2007/08:110), the Swedish Parliament adopted an overarching "Vision Zero for Suicide" (VZ) and nine strategies for suicide prevention. However, how the VZ should be interpreted in healthcare is unclear. The VZ has been criticized both from a philosophical perspective and against the background of clinical experience and alleged empirical claims regarding the consequences of regulating suicide prevention. This study is part of a larger research project in medical ethics with the overarching aim to explore whether the VZ is ethically justifiable. The aim is to enrich the normative discussion by investigating empirically how the VZ is perceived in healthcare.


Interviews based on a semi-structured interview guide were performed with 12 Swedish psychiatrists. The interviews were analysed with descriptive qualitative content analysis aiming for identifying perceptions of the Vision Zero for Suicide as well as arguments for and against it.


Though most of the participants mentioned at least some potential benefit of the Vision Zero for Suicide, the overall impression was a predominant skepticism. Some participants focused on why they consider the VZ to be unachievable, while others focused more on its potential consequences and normative implications.


The VZ was perceived to be impossible to realize, nonconstructive or potentially counterproductive, and undesirable because of potential conflicts with other values and interests of patients as well as the general public. There were also important notions of the VZ having negative consequences for the working conditions of psychiatrists in Sweden, in increasing their work-related anxiety and thwarting the patient-physician relationship.


Bioethics; Goals; Prevention; Psychiatry; Public health; Suicide

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