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Care for suicidal older people: current clinical–ethical considerations
  1. Linus Vanlaere1,
  2. Filip Bouckaert2,
  3. Chris Gastmans1
  1. 1Centre for Biomedical Ethics and Law, Faculty of Medicine, Catholic University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
  2. 2Psychiatric Hospital Sint-Jozef, Kortenberg, Belgium
  1. Correspondence to:
 Professor C Gastmans
 Centre for Biomedical Ethics and Law, KU Leuven, Kapucijnenvoer 35, 3000 Leuven, Belgium; Chris.Gastmans{at}


This article opens by reviewing the state of the knowledge on the most current worldwide facts about suicide in older people. Next, a number of values that have a role in this problem are considered. Having a clear and current understanding of suicide and of the related self-held and social values forms the framework for a number of clinical–ethical recommendations for care practice. An important aspect of caring for older people with suicidal tendencies is to determine whether their primary care fosters self-esteem and affirms their dignity. In addition to providing a timely and appropriate diagnosis and treatment of suicidality, the caregiver is responsible for helping the patient to cope with stressful conditions, and for treating the patient with respect and consideration, thereby supporting the patient’s dignity and giving the patient a reason to live. Paying attention to these central points will foster caring contact with suicidal older people.

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  • This study was funded by the Fund for Scientific Research, Flanders (Belgium).

  • Competing interests: None.