Standards Q&A: Should a Psychological Autopsy Be Complete Before or After a Clinical Mortality Review?
by Robert Simon, MEd, CCHP
Q: In the event of a death by suicide, would a mortality review be considered compliant if it was completed before the psychological autopsy?
A: Standard A-09 Procedure in the Event of an Inmate Death requires the completion of a clinical mortality review (an assessment of the clinical care provided and the circumstances leading up to the death) within 30 days. Additionally, in the event of a suicide, a psychological autopsy is also required within the same time frame. Sometimes referred to as a psychological reconstruction or postmortem, a psychological autopsy is a written reconstruction of an individual’s life with an emphasis on factors that led up to and may have contributed to the death.
The standard does not, however, specify that the psychological autopsy needs to be completed either before or after the mortality review. The results of a psychological autopsy could be beneficial to the clinical mortality review, but the mortality review would not be considered noncompliant if it was completed before the psychological autopsy.