In the course of a distinguished career as a forensic psychiatrist and suicidologist, Dr. Theodore Dorpat studied many suicides. His interest and involvement...

Share story

In the course of a distinguished career as a forensic psychiatrist and suicidologist, Dr. Theodore Dorpat studied many suicides.

His interest and involvement in forensic suicidology stemmed in part from the research he performed on hundreds of suicides and attempted suicides in King County early in his career.

He helped pioneer a methodology in suicidology called the psychological autopsy, which involved interviews with friends and relatives of the deceased, plus a review of medical, psychiatric and other records of the deceased for an analysis of the kinds of psychiatric and mental problems connected with the suicide.

He was a frequent forensic expert witness in legal cases involving suicide and disputed suicide.

For more than a half-century, he was in private practice as a clinical psychiatrist and had been associated with the Blakeley Clinic in Seattle’s Ravenna area and on the University of Washington faculty.

At 81, as a UW clinical professor emeritus of psychiatry, Dr. Dorpat was still consulting with patients when he was diagnosed with liver cancer, and he died within days of that diagnosis. He died last Tuesday at Seattle’s Northwest Hospital.

“His illness was a short one, and his passing surprised both friends and colleagues. He was still fit and even robust,” said his youngest brother, longtime Seattle historian Paul Dorpat, whose “Now & Then” columns have appeared in The Seattle Times’ Pacific Northwest magazine for 25 years.

Several times a week, Ted Dorpat would walk the Green Lake loop near his home, frequently accompanied by his wife, Doris. “He was blessed with full faculties, and had recently completed writing his fifth book and was searching for a publisher,” said his brother.

The eldest of four sons of a Midwest Lutheran pastor, Ted Dorpat joined the UW faculty as a clinical assistant in psychiatry in 1953, a year after obtaining his UW medical degree. He also had earned degrees from Whitworth College in Spokane and the Seattle Psychoanalytic Institute.

A colleague, Michael Miller, a psychologist, said Dr. Dorpat, with whom he was associated for more than two decades, was in the forefront of creative integration of psychoanalysis with contemporary thought.

“He had a gift for making very complex ideas and concepts pretty plain and straightforward,” Miller said. “His contributions were wide-ranging.”

Dr. Dorpat was a prolific writer, the author of more than 360 scientific papers, said his brother.

His last published book was “The Wounded Monster: Hitler’s Path from Trauma to Malevolence.”

Dr. Dorpat and Miller had co-authored a book, “Clinical Interaction and the Analysis of Meaning.”

In addition to his wife and brother, he is survived by a daughter, Joanne Dorpat-Halverson, of Seattle; two younger brothers, Norman Dorpat, of Spokane, and David Dorpat, of Des Moines; and two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

A memorial will be held at the UW Club on the main campus at 2 p.m. Sunday.

Charles E. Brown: 206-464-2206 or