Deliberate self-harm and paediatric burn units

Dr. Lachlan Farmer1, Ms. Linda Quinn1, Dr. Amy Jeeves1, Dr. Michelle Lodge1, Mr. Darren Molony1, Dr. Rebecca Cooksey, Mr. Bernard Carney1

1 Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Department of Burns Surgery, King William Road, North Adelaide, South Australia 5006. Corresponding author: 

Deliberate self-harm (DSH) practices involving parasuicidal behaviour expressed as burning provides numerous medical, behavioural and ethical challenges to the burns team, particularly so in the paediatric setting. Parasuicidal behaviour is defined as intentional self-injurious behaviour that, although non-fatal, may result in significant tissue damage and risk of death. Adolescents make up the largest sub-group in the paediatric cohort. Their self-harming behaviours are often recurrent and intervening periods cannot be relied upon to be free from disruptive episodes. Thus, the delivery of medical care for any extended period of time can be difficult. We present three cases of self-inflicted burn injuries referred to the Paediatric Burns Unit within a two week period and discuss the ethical and treatment difficulties encountered.

Key Words

Deliberate self-harm, self-inflicted injury, psychiatric, adolescent


Lachlan Farmer is a Paediatric Burns Registrar from Adelaide, South Australia.


ANZBA is a not for profit organisation and the peak body for health professionals responsible for the care of the burn injured in Australia and New Zealand. ANZBA encourages higher standards of care through education, performance monitoring and research.

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