Human Exceptionalism

Court: Suicide Assisters Can Inherit

This is definitely bad policy, but it was probably the right decision by the court: A Wisconsin Court of Appeals ruled that a relatives who may have assisted a suicide can still inherit from his estate. From the story:

The wife and daughter of a Wisconsin man who committed suicide can inherit his estate even if they assisted him in the act, an appeals court ruled Thursday.

A Wisconsin law prevents anyone who “intentionally kills” another from inheriting from the person but the District 4 Court of Appeals said that does not extend to those who assist in suicide. “A person who assists another in voluntarily and intentionally taking his or her own life is plainly not depriving the other of life,” Judge Margaret Vergeront wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel. “We do not agree that ‘killer’ is commonly understood to mean the person who provides the means that enable another to kill himself or herself.”

Wisconsin Right to Life, which opposes assisted suicide, immediately blasted the ruling, saying it gives a financial incentive for people to help relatives die prematurely…

The two admitted they drove him home from the hospital on a one-day pass the day he committed suicide but they denied assisting. The other children alleged the two knew he wanted to commit suicide, drove him to a cabin on the property, helped him inside, gave him a loaded shotgun and left. For the purposes of deciding the dispute, the court assumed those facts were true but still ruled in their favor. “Providing Edward with a loaded shotgun did not deprive him of his life: he deprived himself of life by shooting himself with the shotgun,” Vergeront wrote.

Wisconsin Right to Life, good people who I know very well, are absolutely correct. The problems with permitting those who assist suicide to inherent from the dead person are so obvious that I need not belabor them here.

But it isn’t up to the court to decide proper policy. It is up to the court to apply the law. And given the facts of this case, and the wording of the law, at least as described in the story, I think the court is probably right that these people did not actively kill the decedent.

That said, the legislature should immediately and forthrightly close this loophole in civil law.

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