The Corner

Law & the Courts

Massachusetts Bill to Criminalize Suicide Encouragement

Assisted suicide and euthanasia corrupt everything, including the suicide-prevention sector. Here’s an example out of Massachusetts. A bill has been filed to make suicide persuasion and facilitation a crime. From, SD 2505 (my emphases):

A person shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than 5 years if they know of another person’s propensity for suicidal ideation and either:

(1) (i) Exercise substantial control over the other person through control of the other person’s physical location or circumstances; deceptive or fraudulent manipulation of the other person’s fears, affections, or sympathies; or undue influence whereby the will of 1 person is substituted for the wishes of another;

(ii) intentionally coerces or encourages that person to commit or attempt to commit suicide; and

(iii) as a result of the coercion or encouragement, in whole or in part, that other person commits or attempts to commit suicide; or

(2) (i) Intentionally provides the physical means, or knowledge of such means, to the other person for the purpose of enabling that other person to commit or attempt to commit suicide and, as a result, the other person commits or attempts to commit suicide; or

(ii) participates in a physical act which causes, aids, encourages or assists the other person in committing or attempting to commit suicide.

Fine and good. But look at this:

c) This section shall not apply to a medical treatment lawfully administered by, or in a manner prescribed by, a licensed physician.

In other words, the bill carves a fat, deadly loophole to allow doctors to take the very actions I emphasized, which would be a serious crime if other people behaved similarly. But doctors’ participation in suicide is worse than when engaged in by others because it adds the heft of medical authority to encouraging a decision to take one’s own life.

The carveout’s purpose is to pave the way to legalize assisted suicide in Massachusetts, perhaps even active euthanasia. That point aside, the bill — like too many suicide prevention efforts these days — only opposes some suicides, either by exempting assisted suicide from the effort or pretending such advocacy doesn’t exist.

Suicide in the U.S. is at the highest rate since World War II. Don’t tell me that the ongoing abdication of the suicide-prevention sector to unequivocally oppose all suicides doesn’t add to the ongoing crisis.

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