Asked in HolocaustCriminal LawCyberbullyingSuicide Warning Signs, Statistics, and Prevention
Why is it illegal for people to kill themselves?
January 15, 2020 8:15PM
August 09, 2009 4:51PM
The ending of one's own life is not illegal in all countries. Under common law, many courts have long recognized the right of a competent adult to consent to or to refuse medical treatment. The moral issue surrounding suicide/euthanasia is an ongoing issue that may never be settled. With the current exception of two states in the U.S., Euthanasia falls under the murder provisions of the criminal Code which prohibits the deliberate and intentional killing of another human being. There is no special provision for it as a special category of murder based on a motive of compassion. Suicide, however, is not a criminal offense when completed properly and without proven assistance from a second party. ADDED: Historically, in the United States, various states listed the act as a felony, but all were reluctant to enforce it. By 1963, six states still considered attempted suicide a crime (North Dakota and South Dakota, Washington, New Jersey, Nevada, and Oklahoma that repealed its law in 1976). By the early 1990s only two US states still listed suicide as a crime, and these have since removed that classification. In some U.S. states, suicide is still considered an unwritten "common law crime," as stated in Blackstone's Commentaries. (So held the Virginia Supreme Court in Wackwitz v. Roy in 1992.) As a common law crime, suicide can bar recovery for the family of the suicidal person in a lawsuit unless the suicidal person can be proven to have been "of unsound mind." That is, the suicide must be proven to have been an involuntary, not voluntary, act of the victim in order for the family to be awarded money damages by the court. This can occur when the family of the deceased sues the caregiver (perhaps a jail or hospital) for negligence in failing to provide appropriate care. Some legal scholars look at the issue as one of personal liberty. According to Nadine Strossen, President of the ACLU, "The idea of government making determinations about how you end your life, forcing you...could be considered cruel and unusual punishment in certain circumstances, and Justice Stevens in a very interesting opinion in a right-to-die [case] raised the analogy." In many jurisdictions medical facilities are empowered or required to commit anyone whom they believe to be suicidal for evaluation and treatment.
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