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Criminal Law Versus Committed Suicide: Analytical Essay

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It is considered a crime to commit suicide in some parts of the world. Ireland has gone through the same-sex marriage referendum and abortion referendum in recent years. I believe Ireland should now concentrate on a referendum specifically focused on assisted suicide. This essay will discuss the Criminal Law (Suicide) Act of 1993 in detail. It will include the Act's point of view through the rights and liberties of the Irish Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. Assisted suicide is a very difficult subject that faces criminal justice, constitutional, moral, medical, and ethical problems.

The commencement of the Criminal Law (Suicide) Act 1993 is as follows ‘this Act shall come into operation one month after the date of its passing. The Bill was signed by the President into law on the 9th of June 1993. The Constitution states that ‘suicide shall cease to be a crime. A person who aids, abets, counsels or procures the suicide of another, or an attempt by another to commit suicide, shall be guilty of an offense and shall be liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years. ‘If, on the trial of an indictment for murder, murder to which section 3 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1990 applies or manslaughter, it is proved that the person charged aided, abetted, counseled or procured the suicide of the person alleged to have been killed, he may be found guilty of an offense under this section. ‘No proceedings shall be instituted for an offense under this section except by or with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions. The repeal of the Constitution states Section 9 of the Summary Jurisdiction (Ireland) Amendment Act, 1871 (amended by section 85 of the Courts of Justice Act, 1936 ) is hereby repealed.

Two very recent cases have helped by providing the necessary legal research to explain assisted suicide. Firstly, the case of Marie Fleming was described as an assisted suicide issue. Secondly, Gail O'Rourke's case described her trying to help out her friend to commit suicide. Both cases involve a lot of legal research that will be discussed in detail below.

The first person to ever be arrested for assisted suicide is Gail O’Rourke. There was a great conflict referring to assisting someone to commit suicide and the right to live also known as pro-life. Gail O'Rourke's trial was watched by many. Of course, it is not illegal to stop certain medications, or treatments or switch off life support. Chemotherapy or certain medications can be stopped at the patient’s request. Doctors are not allowed to force the patient to stop taking any certain therapy such as chemotherapy or switch off the patient’s life support. The Bill was signed in 1993 by the president for the right for natural death and the right to die. The court was always against giving patients drugs because it wasn’t natural. The court states that it is not illegal to die naturally they prefer this than feeding the patient drugs and putting them through different therapies and treatments. In Gail O'Rourke's case, the doctors could disconnect her from her feeding tube.

Fast forward ten years when a lady named Debbie Purdy from Great Britain who stood up to the court. She stated that if she knew that her husband would get imprisonment for illegally cutting her off her life support, she would not have done it. Debbie Purdy came up with rules that were later applied, and it was said that the person helping in assisted suicide should not be imprisoned once they do not help the patient commit suicide constantly.

A case that shook many in Ireland was Marie Fleming's situation. She was a lecturer in the University College Dublin. Her situation involved was that she wanted to decide that she was going to die when she said so. However, she was missing her limbs and therefore could not proceed to do so. Toward the end of her trial, the Supreme Court decided that the Constitution does not say that it is not legal to guide someone to commit suicide. Her case began in 2012 as she took ‘legal action to be allowed to assist with dying’. This case was noted as (Marie Fleming v Ireland and the Attorney General). It first took place in the High Court while later it was appealed and moved to the Supreme Court. She realized that her rights were disrupted under the European Convention on Human Rights. The Supreme Court did not consider the appeal which was that Fleming's partner could have assisted her in dying due to the consequences of for and against the prosecution. An issue that the Criminal Law (Suicide) Act 1993 was unconstitutional was brought up. However, the court rejected this issue because it was indirectly discriminating against those who need assistance when committing suicide.

Ireland is one of the strictest countries when it involves assisted suicide in Europe. In Belgium and the Netherlands direct euthanasia is legal even if it is a minor. Switzerland does not allow direct euthanasia especially when a patient is under drug medication. If your illness is very severe in France it is allowed under law to prescribe a patient medication that can even cause death in some cases. In countries such as Sweden, Germany, Norway and Austria passive euthanasia is legal. In Ireland, Poland, Bosnia, Greece, Croatia and Romania any form of euthanasia is illegal because it is compared to homicide and murder. Euthanasia in these countries leads to fourteen years in prison.

‘Under our law suicide is not a crime but assisted suicide is’ ( ). A fully capable person can decide whether they want to die however a disabled person is not allowed to decide for themselves when they want to die. This means that any person even a relative deciding for a disabled person and assisting them to commit suicide is considered illegal. ‘Although assisted suicide is a crime under our domestic law, not everyone who assists is prosecuted due to a residual discretion or ‘judgment call’ vesting In the Director of Public Prosecutions under section 2(4) of the Act( ).

The prevention theory was Weisberg and Kumpfer’s idea (2003; 4. ‘It is a model of prevention is based on the concept that prevention is now a multidisciplinary science that draws on basic and applied research from many disciplines including psychology, public health, education, psychiatry, social work, medicine, sociology, criminal justice and law’. Prevention was split up into three sections. ‘(1) universal preventive interventions that target the general public or a whole population group; (2) selective preventive interventions that focus on individuals or population subgroups who have biological, psychological, or social risk factors, placing them at higher than average likelihood of problematic behavior; and (3) indicated preventive interventions that target high-risk individuals.

In 1993 the Criminal Law (Suicide) Act of 1993 was introduced to Ireland. Ireland was trying its very best to prevent suicide throughout the country. Since the Act was introduced to Ireland there have been a lot of research and activities discussing suicide and the prevention of suicide. Ireland was given very little time to present information on suicide and suicide prevention. There are many resources introduced to Ireland such as in 2001 there has been a restriction added on purchasing paracetamol. Only one paracetamol can be purchased by a customer each time they are checked out at the till. In 2007 a National Office for Suicide Prevention study has been presented to the HSE. Unfortunately, Ireland has the fifth highest male suicide rate in the whole world which means these resources must be looked into more.

Ms.B case study is relevant to the topic of assisted suicide. Ms. B was put under a ventilator due to her being paralyzed from the neck down. A few months went by and Ms.B decided she wanted to get out of the ventilation treatment. The psychiatrists said that Ms.B was not capable to decide for herself. Her doctors desired her to move to the spinal rehabilitation unit. However, the spinal rehabilitation unit suggested that she couldn’t move out of her hospital because she was dependent on a ventilator. Ms. B agreed that she will not move to the hospice or spinal rehabilitation unit. The High Court states that the hospital was illegally treating her because they refused to stop her from being ventilated even though she insisted. The High Court also says that Ms.B was capable to make up her own decision therefore she could have stopped her ventilation treatment whenever she desired. Judge of the High Court case Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss said that Ms.B was capable to stop her from being ventilated even though she insisted. She was also capable to know about the consequences and what happens after she stops being ventilated. Ms. B was refused being not ventilated she clearly stated that she never decided for herself that she wanted to stop ventilation. She said she would investigate other ways and substitutes.

‘The judge’s reasoning, in this case, may seem ethically and legally uncontroversial. Few, if any, ethicists or lawyers would question a patient’s right to refuse treatment because it is either futile or too burdensome.

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The court believed that Ms.B decision to not commit suicide was a suicidal decision. The judge always needs the doctor's confirmation to deal with a suicidal decision. The courts should clarify specifically that a patient does not have the right to commit suicide or assist suicide in Ireland. Thus, doctors do not have the right to decide for their patients and force them to commit suicide. Additionally, doctors cannot assist a patient to commit suicide.

There has been very recent legislation in 2015 it was called the Right to Die with Dignity Bill 2015 and was introduced by Deputy John Halligan. The extended version of the title of the Bill signed is as follows “Bill entitled an Act to make provision for assistance in achieving a dignified and peaceful end of life to qualifying persons and related matters.” The first stage of the bill has been passed on. However, the second stage of the bill has not yet been signed. This is because Deputy John Halligan cannot pass on the bill to the second stage himself. This Bill is made for those who are on their deathbed and who have no human rights opposed to them. Halligan noted that the reason why assisted suicide is legalized in some countries is that people can live longer. Halligan found out that legalizing assisted suicide increases the number of untreatable illnesses and more patients therefore die.

“[Under the provisions of the Bill] Two separate medical practitioners are required to examine the qualifying person and sign a valid declaration that their decision is voluntary and they have an incurable and progressive illness which cannot be reversed by treatment and which is likely to lead to their death. A third independent witness, who is not a beneficiary of their estate, must also testify that the person has a clear and settled intention to end their own life when their illness becomes too much to bear. At all times safeguards must be met to show the terminally ill person has reached their decision on an informed basis and without coercion or duress. Furthermore, no doctor will be obliged to participate in an assisted death if he or she has a conscientious objection.”

A survey has been completed in 2018 where farmers were questioned whether assisted suicide should be legalized in Ireland. Women farmers agreed that assisted suicide should be legalized (49%) while (31%) of women voted that assisted suicide should be illegal in the country. In 2015 the vote was actually three percent higher than in 2018. 48% of male farmers and 55% of women farmers agreed that assisted suicide should be legalized making women farmers more in favor than men. Residential differences were spotted in the survey. The Dublin area included a higher vote percentage for assisted suicide legalization (77%) than counties such as Tipperary which was only (31%). Many people especially the more traditional and older generation agreed that assisted suicide should be illegal in the country. This is because there are more religious and believe that it is immoral to end someone else’s life on purpose.

Engelhardt and Iltis see that for Christians, the ethical issues about retaining or pulling back treatment or arrangement of assisted suicide can be completely viewed as just inside the profound objective of everlasting redemption. Moral Christian restrictions and beliefs focus on living and dying from helping others' point of view and sacrificing your life to god. Enough record of Christian finish of-life choices is likewise entangled by the vagueness of the term Christian, which includes a bunch of strict gatherings sharing, best case scenario family similarities. The older generation Catholics' position is expressed in the Declaration on Euthanasia, which progresses the situation of the Catholic Church and expresses that all human life paying little respect to its quality has holiness and can never be purposely decimated (Tyrell 2012).

The morality in this issue is whether it is appropriate to directly euthanise someone or by stopping a person from dying. The most important factors of the Catholic church are (1) in an objective moral law which is derived by reason from the natural law which because of our god given ability to reason and discover it is in fact God's law and that law provides a prohibition on killing innocent human beings. (2) that we steward and not owners of our life, the true owner being God, and although we have free will to live, we must live within the parameters of God's law. (3) that every human being has full value and becomes a person from the moment of creation regardless of ability and is therefore entitled as a matter of justice to be treated equally. (4) that every human life is valuable because each is made in God's image and therefore has a unique worth over other life forms. (5) that suffering has a purpose in that it can become a means of affirming the existence of a higher truth that of the suffering of Jesus was a redemptive act for the failings of humanity and which opens the blocked way to the eternal life of and a means of solidarity with others who are not suffering.

Pope John Paul perceives in Evangelium Vitae that we as humans need to bite the dust and that worthless treatment that delays the patient’s death may mess with dying people’s opportunity to make harmony with God. It also perceives the individual's desire to experience their final days in comfort as a sensible option in contrast to intrusive purposeless treatment.

The Court states that a person’s right to live involves a tranquil and natural death. However, it most certainly does not state that a patient’s life should be extended by specific medication and treatments that do not even cure a patient.

Restrictions were made by the Court to notify dying patients. 1) who are effectively insensate (2) who have no prospects of recovery (3) are being kept alive by “artificial” means and (4) it is in the patient’s “best interest” to be allowed to die (Tyrell 2012).

The Rosenfield study found out that the desire to commit suicide was formed because of mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. It was also shown that patients that were on antidepressants were more likely to commit suicide. However, this does not mean that every person diagnosed with depression will end their own life. In fact, patients with thermal illnesses do not have depression. Rosenfield states ‘how happy do you need to be when you have a thermal illness’. There are more people talking about assisted suicide nowadays. Yet, nothing is being done to legalize the issue in Ireland. There are still many patients with thermal illnesses refusing to live, eat, drink or take their medication in our hospitals.

A recent study showed that more patients from Ireland have decided to sign up for assisted suicide in Switzerland. 47% of Irish patients have signed up for assisted suicide in Switzerland. This is 74% more patients signed up than in 2018. Switzerland accepts people that do not have thermal illnesses. They accept people that are of old age, depressed or in serious pain. Switzerland is therefore a unique country because places such as Belgium and Canada that legalized assisted suicide only accept patients with thermal illnesses.

A report on the Right to Die with Dignity was published in June 2018 by The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality the figures show that after the abortion and same-sex marriage referendums “the right to die is the next civil right that should be discussed in Ireland”.

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Criminal Law Versus Committed Suicide: Analytical Essay. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 10, 2023, from
“Criminal Law Versus Committed Suicide: Analytical Essay.” Edubirdie, 27 Dec. 2022,
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