CMAJ Editor Urges to Study Maternal Suicides on Case-to-Case Basis

A Canadian medical journal editor has highlighted in a recent issue that the recent deaths of 32-year-old Lisa Gibson and her two young children, two-year-old daughter Anna and three-month-old Nicholas, in Winnipeg underlines the need to cautiously investigate maternal deaths on a case-by-case basis. Gibson’s body was recovered from within in the Red River in July almost three days after both her children died in hospital after emergency personnel found the children unresponsive in the family’s home. Family members have alleged that Gibson had sought help for postpartum depression, while an official cause of her death is being investigated by Manitoba’s Chief Medical Examiner.

The editor of the Canadian Medical Association Journal argues in today’s issue that Canada is in desperate need to “do more” to understand and prevent maternal suicide, with regular in-depth audits of deaths. She pointed out that health care providers should be more diligent in detecting postpartum depression. The editorial highlighted that maternal deaths in the UK and several other countries are analyzed on a case-by-case basis to identify contributing factors, though it is not the case in Canada.

Responding to a question of “how could we do better?”  Kirsten Patrick, deputy editor at the CMAJ stated that “first, we must examine individual cases to inform strategies aimed at preventing such unnecessary and tragic loss of life. The deaths of Ms. Gibson and her children are a tragedy. It is criticial that these deaths and other maternal deaths be carefully investigated and reported to see if there are potential failings in care — not to lay blame, but to learn and to consider what might be done differently in future.”

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