Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Assisted Suicide Definition:

An attempt to take one's own life with the intentional assistance of another person.

Related Terms: Euthanasia, Active Euthanasia

A form of suicide or euthanasia which involves a person other than the person taking his or her own life, and during which the other person assists in direct or indirect physical means in giving effect to the suicide or, in the event of a statutory definition, in a manner as set out in that statute.

For example, most jurisdictions have long eliminated the crime of suicide, given the obvious absence of an accused, and even the crime of attempted suicide, given the obvious psychological state of the accused.

However, to use Canada as an example, and to promote a public policy of, to quote Justice Sopinka in Rodriguez:  "... to discourage the terminally ill from choosing death over life", the law is set out at §14 and §241 of the Criminal Code:

"No person is entitled to consent to have death inflicted on him, and such consent does not affect the criminal responsibility of any person by whom death may be inflicted on the person by whom consent is given.

"Every one who counsels a person to commit suicide, or aids or abets a person to commit suicide, whether suicide ensues or not, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years."

morphineSimilarly, Chapter 35 of the Indiana Code (Criminal law & Procedure), at §35-41-1-2.5:

"A person who has knowledge that another person intends to commit or attempt to commit suicide and who intentionally does either of the following commits assisting suicide, a ... felony: provides the physical means by which the other person attempts or commits suicide (or) participates in a physical act by which the other person attempts or commits suicide."

However, the Indiana Code also adds that:

"This section does not apply to ... a licensed health care provider who administers, prescribes, or dispenses medications or procedures to relieve a person's pain or discomfort, even if the medication or procedure may hasten or increase the risk of death, unless such medications or procedures are intended to cause death, (or) the withholding or withdrawing of medical treatment or life-prolonging procedures by a licensed health care provider, including pursuant to ... living wills and life-prolonging procedures (or a) health care consent or ... power of attorney."

In Gentry v State of Indiana, David Gentry's mother Nadine suffered from multiple sclerosis and a brain tumor. When he found his mother barely conscious from a failed suicide attempt. Next to her was an apparent suicide note. Gentry made the decision to "... end his mother's life for her. He held his mother's hand then pressed the pillows down over her face .. until ... she was no longer breathing."

In upholding Gentry's conviction of murder, Justice Baker of the Court of Appeals of Indiana wrote:

"To be subject to prosecution for assisting suicide, a defendant need only provide the physical means or participate in the physical act by which another person himself commits suicide."

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