Attempted Suicide soon Not an Offence
October 18, 2021
Public opinion is clearly in favour of the Government’s declared intention to get Parliament’s approval for the repeal of Section 306 of the Penal Code. Section 306 makes attempted suicide a crime punishable with imprisonment or with a fine or both. Singapore decriminalized suicide in 2019.
The man on the street in general cannot process the idea that a person who failed in his attempt to commit suicide is then arrested to be charged in court and possibly jailed. Is it not bad enough that the distraught victim has gone through a harrowing experience trying to end his or her life that on failure he or she has to face prosecution in court and perhaps jail? That is the hard part for the public to swallow. This is because suicide is a tragedy and tragedies need to be dealt with differently from criminal offences against society. Someone who attempts suicide is crying for help. When no help is forthcoming, the person gives up on living.
The basis for the criminalization of suicide was the view that everyone’s right to life shall be protected by the law. Taking a life then, even your own, is a crime. The law’s intention was to prevent people from doing it by a threat of punishment. Do you think it will cross the mind of a seriously depressed person who wants to die to review rationally the consequences like “I may be punished if survive this suicide”?
Life is getting harder. The pandemic has pushed the poor and marginalised segment of society to the edge of the cliff. Ordinary Malaysians have rallied to the White Flag initiative and many more compassionate based activities to do whatever they can to ameliorate the situation. It has not sufficiently prevented the rise of suicide cases which was reported to be 468 in the first five months of 2021, up from an annual total of 631 cases in 2020 and 609 in 2019. Perhaps the numbers could have been worse if not for kind people around in the community. Malaysians have risen to the occasion.
We need to assess the collateral damage to those left behind by suicide victims like children or parents or close friends of the deceased. They need to be counselled for the emotional trauma of losing a loved one.
Suicide is a community and public issue, not just a personal one. People want to live and fight to live at all expense. But when the odds are so heavily stacked against them, and they have reached the end of the road with no glimmer of hope that anyone would or could help them, then and only then will they take their life.
Society has to look at itself today and its values and see where we are heading. Are we driving people to a dead end?
- The Star Online. 5 September 2021. Yuen Meikeng. https://www.thestar.com.my/news/focus/2021/09/05/caution-before-abolishing-law-on-suicide
- New Straits Times. 9 July 2021. Veena Babulal. https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2021/07/706710/calls-grow-government-state-its-stand-decriminalising-suicide
- J.Neeleman. Suicide as a crime in the UK: legal history, international comparisons and present implications. PMID: 8911560 DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-0447.1996.tb09857.x l https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8911560/
- H. Hendin. Assisted suicide, euthanasia, and suicide prevention: the implications of the Dutch experience. PMID: 7631372. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7631372/
- BBC News. 3 August 2011. Gerry Holt. When suicide was illegal. https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-14374296