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David Kelly's death is far from 'a textbook case'

The pathologist who examined Dr David Kelly has been widely reported as saying that his death was a "textbook" case of suicide. This depends very much on the textbook.

In a textbook of physical pathology, Dr Kelly's injuries might well provide an exemplar of a suicide by wrist-cutting. But from a psychiatric epidemiological perspective, a different picture presents itself.



Wrist-cutting is such an unusual form of suicide that it is not recorded separately in national statistics, but is lumped together with other uncommon suicide methods involving self-stabbing.



In men of Dr Kelly's age in the UK who kill themselves, less than 3 per cent do so by using any sort of sharp implement. A much smaller number will therefore have actually cut their wrists. So, the physical pathological findings might be typical, but typical of a rare event.



Of course, Dr Kelly's death may still indeed have been a suicide. But, compared with most suicides, his case is neither representative nor characteristic. It is so unusual that it surely justifies a full and open public inquiry.



Dr Philip Timms FRCPsych, Consultant Psychiatrist, South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust

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