Four reasons why medical centers need ligature-resistant door hardware throughout the facility

Suicide Prevention Today

In many cultures, mental health issues and suicides have existed in shadows since recorded history ligature resistant meaning. Unfortunately, this shadow is still present, and many lives are lost each year. Some of these deaths could have been prevented. Suicide was one of the nine leading causes for death among people aged 10 to 64 in 2020. The second most common cause of death among people aged 10-14, and those between 25-34 was suicide. This is a depressing statistic to add to a topic that’s already difficult: ligature resistant door hardware.

The good news is, there are many educational, prevention and rehabilitation organizations, as well as support groups, that can help shed light on this dark side of the modern world. The American Hospital Association, or AHA, also follows the guidelines of the American Society for Health Care Engineering and Joint Commission. These guidelines include making patient rooms, bathrooms, corridors, and common patient care areas “ligature-resistant.”

The guidelines apply to the psychiatric ward of the hospital, not the whole building. The protocol is reasonable, except for when all the behavioral beds have been filled. This is when the patient will be placed in the “general population rooms” which are not resistant to ligatures and open up the possibility for self-harm.

There are 4 good reasons why.

1. Life Saved: Every day, hospitals save lives and they are inherently important to every community. Hospitals are responsible for an average 1,500 suicides per year. In 75% of cases, the suicides occur outside a patient’s door. In mental distress, patients will check their room to see if it is ligature-resistant. When they enter a room that has ligature resistant products in it, many are discouraged from harming themselves.

2. Safety is the act of taking steps to protect a patient’s health in a physical hospital environment. Webster defines safety as “the state of being free from harm, danger or injury; the absence of any risk.” If a patient enters a room for the general population and scans the environment, they will notice that the doors have been made ligature resistant. The work put into the installation of ligature resistant hardware was a success.

3. There are fewer lawsuits. Although it is difficult to find the exact numbers, there are a number of suits filed each year against medical facilities where someone feels a suicide was preventable. A 22-year old woman recently spent time in a mental health unit. She was free to leave her room, and move around her floor. In the laundry, she tied a sheet of bedsheet to a lock on a door and made a noose. The woman threw a bed sheet over the top and became suffocated. It was determined that the hospital had failed to install ligature resistant door locks in its laundry room. The hospital was forced to pay $2.2million as a result.

4. Medical centers would be safe if they chose to install ligature resistant hardware in their entire medical facility. If other medical facilities saw positive results from installing ligature resistant hardware in public rooms, they may adopt the same measures. This best practice may also result in more architectural standards for medical facilities.

Why do hospitals not have door locks that are resistant to ligatures?

AHA published an article entitled “Ligature risk requirements: Separating fact from fiction in suicide prevention” that begins with the following: “Few incidents in healthcare facilities are as devastating — and preventable as a patient’s suicide.” Data shows that there are many suicides in hospitals. This suggests that they must identify and monitor patients who may be at risk, and remove the tools to commit suicide from the environment.

There is not much direct information available to explain why medical center-wide ligature resistant doors aren’t installed. Here are a few factors to consider.

1. The cost and efficiency of ligature resistant locks is not only lower than other locks available today but also more extensive and lengthy.

2. Regulations: Ligature-resistant beds are required only for behavioral health. The Joint Commission has developed these regulations in coordination with SAMHSA CMS and ASHE. These organizations are all responsible for different aspects regarding the ligature resistant environment of psychiatric care inpatients today.

3. Social change: According to sociologists, social changes are “Changes that occur in the human interaction and relationship between people and their institutions”. The media today is more focused on suicide prevention than ever before. The sheer number of suicides in the world today may be changing the old attitude that “let’s pretend to ignore it” and not discuss it. According to a recent study, every suicide can affect up to 135 other people.

There is no reason for medical centers not to have ligature resistant door hardware in all of their medical rooms. We cannot implement a single solution to stop suicide, as a group. But we can make a difference by using our compassion and voices. We can save lives by continuing the conversation with local leaders and hospitals about suicide.