Wednesday, November 2, 2022

US Bill outlaws online Suicide assistance

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

NPR reported on October 9 that the parents of Kristine Jónsson (16) of Ohio and the parents of Ethan McCarthy (17) of West Virginia have sued Amazon based on the suicide deaths of their teenagers.

The article explains that Amazon sold the teenagers suicide powder with the peaceful pill handbook that is written that explains how to ingest the suicide powder.

A recent article by Gabriel J.X. Dance and Megan Twohey titled: Bill Outlawing Online Suicide Assistance Would Open Sites to Liability reports on a bipartisan bill introduced in the House of Representatives, the Stop Online Suicide Assistance Forums Act, comes amid rising concern over suicide rates among young people, and mounting evidence of online dangers.

Bill H.R.9260 is sponsored by Representative Lori Trahan, Democrat of Massachusetts and Co-sponsored by Katie Porter, Democrat of California, and Republicans Mike Carey of Ohio and Chris Stewart of Utah.

The article refers to the New York Times investigative report on a suicide website last December:
The bill’s primary sponsor cited a Times investigation published last December into a website where members share detailed instructions on how to die and encourage one another to follow through with suicide plans. The investigation identified 45 deaths connected to the site and found hundreds of posts suggesting that the true toll was much higher.

Even as the trail of suicides connected to the site grows longer — The Times has since identified dozens more deaths, including several young teenagers — no one involved has faced legal consequences.
The article reports that Trahan, the bills sponsor, referred to the New York Times findings as “terrifying” and Trahan said that “it motivated us to act.”

The article states that most US states have laws prohibiting assisted suicide but these laws are inconsistent, rarely enforced and don't explicitly address online suicide. The article states:

The new federal bill draws on a Minnesota State Supreme Court ruling, which affirmed that offering suicide instructions in an online exchange was a crime.

Article: Assisted suicide conviction upheld of former Minnesota nurse (Link).
Previous legislation aimed at this issue, the Suzanne Gonzales Suicide Prevention Act, first proposed in 2007 and named for a 19-year-old who had killed herself after receiving instruction on the internet, would also have made online assistance of suicide a federal crime. It was introduced several times but never received a vote.

H.R. 9260 states:

“(a) In general.—Whoever uses mail or interstate communication to intentionally assist another individual in taking that individual’s own life, and death results, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.

“(b) Limitation.—Any action taken in accordance with State laws governing physician-assisted end of life shall not constitute an offense under subsection (a).

Since none of the Amerian state assisted suicide laws specifically permit online suicide assistance, therefore Section (b) is currently unnecessary, nonetheless, this bill prohibits online suicide assistance without over-reaching into the state jurisdiction.

Sharon Luft, the mother of Matthew, who died by suicide last year supports the bill. The article states:

“It’s at least one important step. We need to get this online help taken down,” said Sharon Luft, whose 17-year-old son Matthew killed himself last year less than a month after joining the site.

When Matthew inquired about a specific method, another member was quick to reply with a link to detailed instructions on how to use it to die. He later sought and received more detailed advice to make sure his efforts would work. At one point, he wondered if the method was working and asked if he should keep going. Another member responded, “If you want the attempt to be a success, then yes.”

“Websites that encourage suicide and offer instructions are harmful, particularly to youth and young adults,” said Robert Gebbia, the chief executive of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Preventing online suicide assistance is an important step towards protecting people who are living with suicidal ideation. Matthew (17), Kristine (16), and Ethan (17) are there of the many people who have died by online suicide assistance.

EPC supports H.R. 9260.


Kathleen1031 said...

And ask ourselves why our children would find life so void and meaningless they as young people in their prime can identify no reason to go on.
If for no other reason than our young people, we have to give them faith in God and a healthier culture so they can have hope for the future and grow up reasonably balanced.
One thing parents ought to do is pull the plug on social media for their kids and limit exposure to this sick culture. Be countercultural. If they find it later they may have no interest in it. I knew someone who raised their girls without TV and they weren't interested in it later.
Something's got to change. Are our children worth it.

Vi said...

Once again, very well said & I absolutely agree with you Kathleen1031.