CU Study: Too Few ER Docs Ask Suicidal Patients About Firearms

March 21, 2016

Too many emergency room doctors aren't asking suicidal patients if they have access to firearms, according to a new study from the University Of Colorado School Of Medicine.

National guidelines encourage ER physicians to ask about firearms and other items that could be lethal implements. But only about half do.

“I think sometimes they’re afraid to ask," said Dr. Emmy Betz, who led the study. "They don’t want to offend a patient or alienate a patient on a sensitive topic. I think sometimes providers don’t know how to ask.” 

Betz says if a doctor knew a suicidal patient had access to a firearm, they could make a plan with a patient’s family to lock it up or remove it from a home for a period of time.

The study estimates emergency department interventions might help reduce suicide deaths by 20 percent a year.

The study appears in the journal Depression and Anxiety.