Predicting Suicide: Return of a Scandal (Part 2)


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Within the first put up on this sequence, I regarded on the work of Swedish psychiatrist Lars Thorell, who has developed a take a look at which, he claims, is ready to predict suicides in depressed sufferers. Thorell’s take a look at known as electrodermal orientation reactivity (aka electrodermal hyporeactivity), and whereas Thorell’s work on the approach goes again to the 1980s, it has lately been commercialized by an organization referred to as Emotra AB, who named the product EDOR®.

Beforehand, I expressed scepticism over the revealed proof purporting to point out that electrodermal orientation reactivity can predict suicide. On this put up, I’m going to look at Emotra and their claims about EDOR®.

Emotra is a Swedish firm of which Thorell is head of analysis, in addition to a board member and main shareholder. EDOR® is their solely product and, based on them, it’s fairly one thing. Right here’s how they describe the take a look at:

EDOR® An goal diagnostic software 
for evaluation of suicide threat. EDOR® identifies hyporeactive sufferers, associated to imminent threat of suicide or violent suicide makes an attempt.

Emotra declare that EDOR will present advantages akin to:

– Many lives might be saved if threat sufferers could also be recognized at an early stage
– If most suicide makes an attempt might be prevented, excessive prices for hospital care and rehabilitation might be prevented
– The usage of EDOR® makes it doable to help the caregivers in avoiding overtreatment (pointless preventive actions) of sufferers, that don’t belong to the chance group

So the place’s the proof that it really works? Emotra prominently say that “as many as 97 per cent of the studied sufferers who’ve dedicated suicide had been hyporeactive. This represents an undisputable robust relationship between hyporeactivity and threat for suicide.” Nevertheless, as I identified final time, it is extremely simple to create a take a look at which predicts 97% of suicides: you merely predict suicide in 97% of everybody you meet. Such an absurd ‘take a look at’ would have 97% sensitivity, however to be helpful, a take a look at wants not solely sensitivity but in addition specificity.

On their ‘Scientific Research‘ web page, Emotra say that “Amongst depressed sufferers who weren’t hyporeactive, solely 2 % took their life (98% specificity for suicide)three.”

However this simply isn’t what specificity means. It’s unsuitable. Specificity is the proportion, of these individuals who didn’t commit suicide, who weren’t hyporeactive – not the opposite method round. The specificity worth within the referenced paper was 33%, not 98%. Thorell has beforehand exhibited confusion on this level in a paper, which earned the professor a rebuke from an undergraduate scholar (amongst different folks) however to see the identical error repeated in a industrial context is moderately extraordinary.


So I don’t suppose the revealed information on this take a look at may be very spectacular… however it will get worse. In a September 2017 press launch, Emotra reveal some outcomes from EUDOR-A, their massive ‘naturalistic’ trial of EDOR® in depressed sufferers, launched in 2014. The trial was introduced in a 2017 paper, however the outcomes stay unpublished.


The press launch doesn’t present precise information like sensitivity and specificity for EDOR-A, however it does state that there have been only a few suicides in both the hyporeactive or non-hyporeactive sufferers: “All in all, solely three suicides occurred within the hyporeactive group. Within the usually reactive group the variety of suicides, as anticipated, was very low.” Studying between the strains, I believe this to imply that the take a look at didn’t predict suicides, as a result of if it had, Emotra would certainly have stated so.

Emotra nonetheless recommend that the EUDOR-A outcomes may imply that EDOR® does work – at stopping suicides! “The entire ratio of documented suicides in EUDOR-A is a document low… this discount can likely be defined by the directed suicide prevention measures that the clinics by their very own accounts applied to guard hyporeactive sufferers.” A pleasant method of it. Fortunately, because of this the EUDOR-A trial was all alongside a win/win proposition for Emotra: nevertheless the outcomes had turned out, they might declare it as successful for his or her product.

Certainly, there’s purpose to imagine that EUDOR-A was meant to serve a advertising and marketing perform. In early 2015, Emotra’s CEO described EUDOR-A as a part of their technique to “lay a stable basis for a future launch” of EDOR®:

A lot of Europe’s main clinics are taking part in [EUDOR-A]. If the research outcomes change into as compelling as we predict they are going to, this truth ought to make these clinics wish to help us to determine the tactic in specialised psychiatric care as quickly as doable. We count on that coaching efforts will primarily be dealt with by the ‘Key Opinion Leaders’ which have participated in our research…

Trials which are supposed to construct hyperlinks with medical doctors and familiarize them with a product are recognized within the commerce as ‘seeding trials’. They’re most frequently related to Large Pharma, and should not at all times seen as factor for science.

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