In order to minimize self- inflicted damage from unclean blades and dirty instruments, it has been proposed to provide clean blade to self-harmers. In addition, they can be provided guidance on where to cut to avoid drastic consequences. This move is comparable to the provision of sterile needles to drug addicts.
The proposal is one of the guidelines for senior nurses who attend to mentally ill patients and would be subjected to an open discussion, held at the Royal College of Nursing, to be held in April. This anticipated move has raised controversies regarding the duty of medical staff, which is regarded as prevention of harm, rather than helping somebody cause it.
Each year, more than 170, 000 patients are being treated for self-inflicted injuries, either as a result of depression or other mental health disorders. In addition, physical or sexual abuse, divorce between parents can lead to self-harm.
From numerous studies conducted on self-harm, it has been found that young girls between ages 15 to 19 are more susceptible to harm themselves. The same trend is also being observed amongst men in their early twenties. At the present, nurses who deal with such patients are required to seize any instruments such as knives, blades, broken glass to avoid further injuries.
According to the new proposal, patients would be transported to a safe environment where they could be allowed to do so under strict medical supervision. The issue of whether to prohibit such self harm acts or to minimize the harm through strategies as mentioned above is yet to be resolved.
Jeremy Bore, vice-chairman of the RCN's prison forum, feels that the best move is to sit down with the patient and talk with them during the act. This can promote the concept of giving advice regarding where to cut. Once an adequate level of comfort has been achieved, the medical personnel can even enquire about the number of cuts and the depth of the proposed cuts. Suitable instructions can then be given accordingly.
On the contrary, Katherine Murphy, a member of the Patients Association has criticized the proposed plan and has warned that it could lead to the visualization of nurses as individuals who encourage self-harm rather than health care providers.