26.04.2019 | Case Report | Ausgabe 2/2019
The risk of assault against mental health professionals: a fatal case report and literature review
Forensic Science, Medicine and Pathology
- Lucia Tattoli, Caterina Bosco, Ignazio Grattagliano, Giancarlo Di Vella
Assaults by patients against healthcare providers are an increasing phenomenon worldwide. Mental health professionals in acute facilities and rehabilitation wards have the highest risk of being attacked at work. Verbal abuse or intimidating behaviors represent the most common types of violence. Fatal assault by psychiatric patients has been rarely reported in the literature. We present a case of a female psychiatrist who was fatally stabbed in her office in a Mental Health Center. At autopsy seventy stab wounds were found: four wounds of the neck, fifty penetrating wounds of the thorax, three wounds of the abdomen, six wounds of the lumbar region, and seven wounds of the upper arms including defense injuries. The cause of death was massive blood loss due to multiple stab wounds. The perpetrator was a 44-year-old male patient who had been referred to the victim after a previous admission to hospital following experiences of suicidal ideation and confusion. The extreme and unmotivated violence in a non-acute setting were notable. A borderline-antisocial personality disorder was later diagnosed by forensic experts. This case emphasizes the significant occupational risk for mental healthcare staff to sustain life threatening injuries or death, with implications for training of clinicians, and strategies for preventing aggressive behaviors.