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Managing self-harm: the legal issues


Each year about 100,000 people present to UK hospitals with deliberate self-harm, the most common form of which is poisoning with medicines or other pharmacologically active substances.1 As many as 95% of self-poisonings are intentional drug overdoses2 but only around 40% of patients who poison themselves express a wish to die.3 In many instances, the final outcome is determined by the speed with which treatment is started.4 Here we concentrate on the legal issues facing doctors when the patient declines treatment.

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