A patient with a debilitating hereditary disease such as Huntington's chorea may be tempted to commit suicide. Paulsen et al identified certain time periods when the risk is greater than at other times. The authors are from the Huntington Study Group, a large group of researchers in Australia, Europe and North America.


The risk of suicide in a patient with Huntington's Disease (HD) is much higher than that seen in the general population (range 7 to 200 times greater rate).


Diseases stages when prone to suicide ideation:

(1) immediately before getting a definite diagnosis of HD (presence of "soft" signs)

(2) during Stage 2 of disease (mild disease with early signs of functional impairment)



• Suicide ideation is a risk factor for suicide. The ability to predict who will actually attempt suicide or who will succeed is poor.

• The Stage of HD was based on the Total Functional Capacity Score.

• Stages 1 and 3 also show an increased rate of suicide ideation.


Patients with the lowest rate of suicide ideation:

(1) normal neurological examination (preclinical)

(2) advanced disease (Stage 5)


Other factors that might contribute to the risk (not listed in the paper):

(1) pre-existing depression

(2) witnessing a family member deteriorate in an unpleasant manner


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