Suicide is an event that can shatter families. It’s often difficult to understand why someone decides to take their own life. Many families and friends feel like the individual who did it took the coward’s way out.
However, sometimes, mental or physical pain is too great, so someone decides to enact the ultimate and permanent solution. Some individuals kill themselves because they are battling mental illness or they feel guilty about some event. Others commit suicide because of existential angst that they cannot even articulate.
In most cases, there is no crime if someone takes their own life. Occasionally, though, the legal system might feel that someone is at least partially responsible. Let’s get into more detail about that.
How Often Does Suicide Occur?
The first thing to know is that suicide happens a lot more than you might think. It remains one of death’s leading causes. For instance, in 2018, there were more than twice as many suicides as homicides.
During the pandemic, even more suicides than usual have occurred. The past few months have challenged people in every conceivable way. Some of them have lost their jobs, and they may not have been able to see many of their family members or friends because of social distancing requirements.
The depression and anxiety rates have gone up dramatically, and whenever that happens, the suicide rate goes up too. With so much turmoil over the past year, many people have not been able to get the therapy or prescription medication they need, and some have taken their own lives out of desperation.
What About Assisted Suicide?
You also have cases sometimes where someone wants to kill themselves, and they share that thought process with someone else. Perhaps they will confide in a family member or friend. In most instances, these confidants will try to talk them out of it.
Still, you might have an instance where someone is in pain. They may have cancer or some incurable disease that is going to kill them anyway. Perhaps they’ve had some accident that has lowered their life quality.
If such an individual confides in someone else, that person might indicate that suicide is a viable option for them. That sounds awful, but think about what you might say if a close friend or someone else you love is in excruciating pain, and there is no relief for them.
In these instances, the confidant might even help the person commit suicide in some way. They might hold a pillow over their head or provide the pills they need for an intentional overdose.
What Happens When This Occurs?
If you help someone commit suicide, the laws vary state by state, but it’s always illegal. The court system might not judge you so harshly if you helped someone kill themselves if that person was suffering, but they can still potentially convict you of a crime.
If the court system brings charges against you, manslaughter is the most likely one. Manslaughter has several definitions. If you recklessly cause someone’s death, the courts might consider that to be manslaughter.
However, if you intentionally provide the physical means for someone to kill themselves, such as giving someone a rope that they then use to hang themselves, most states and criminal codes also consider that to be manslaughter.
What Are the Penalties?
The penalty for manslaughter will again depend on the state and also on the mitigating circumstances. For instance, in Arizona, you can get up to 12.5 years in prison for manslaughter, a Class 2 felony.
Maybe a judge will go easy on you if you help a loved one kill themselves, though, if that person was in pain. They may decide not to give you the maximum.
You should realize that any time you start talking with someone who tells you they want to kill themselves, you are getting into some dangerous legal territory. You must proceed with extreme caution.
You know that the court can convict you of manslaughter and send you away for years if you provide the physical means for someone to kill themselves. Beyond that, though, you can even face charges sometimes if you send a person a text message telling them that you support the decision to kill themselves, and then they do it.
If you want to be sure that you are in the clear legally, the best thing you can do is try to convince a suicidal person not to do it.
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