Monday, March 17, 2014

Talk About Kicking You When You're Down

I'm going to open this up by stating unequivocally that this whole line of research was just the result of random curiosity taken to a ridiculous extreme, and that no part of the following should in any way be taken as some sort of oblique cry for help.*

*How do highly strung teenagers issue a cry for help these days, now that no one has a 'record collection' to give away?  'Dude, I totally want you to have all my downloads' just doesn't have the same narrative weight. 

That said...

This morning it occurred to me to wonder whether suicide - while generally a bad idea - was actually a punishable criminal offense.

Obviously there would be no way to punish someone who actually got the job done*, however that didn't mean that the attempt itself wouldn't be some sort of legal crime.  We do not, after all, say, 'well, she's going to live from the stab wounds, so I guess you're free to go.  No murder here.'

*Previous societies apparently did have all manner of rules about what funeral and burial arrangements were not allowed for someone who had taken their own life.  However - in the modern US at least - we're not particularly bothered by those things these days.

So I did what I inevitably do in these situations and googled it.  Which, as always happens in these situations immediately referred me to Wikipedia which is the traditional cue for me to insert a rant about how Wikipedia isn't a real source of reliable information, no matter what the high school system now says.

Taking that rant as read, Wikipedia informed me that by and large, no.  In almost all states it is no longer listed as a legal offense to kill yourself, as anyone with any skill at the crime would be impossible to punish and quite frankly our justice department has quite enough on its plate to deal with without adding this in as well, thank you very much.

In a few other states it's still listed as a felony, which makes you wonder how much free time their court systems have.

Other fun details - for the most part, if you attempt suicide and you live but someone else dies as a result that's officially manslaughter.  And there does not appear to be a standard as to the legality of assisting someone else's suicide (unless you're a doctor), although I suppose whether or not they actually know they want to commit suicide would probably be a factor and just arguing that they'd seemed kind of down and so you decided to cut to the chase and smother them with a pillow would probably not cut the mustard.  It would probably take up a few months of court time however.

Going back even further, it appears that according to colonial law (and international Common Law earlier) attempting suicide meant that you lost your 'Lands, Property and Chattel'.  I suspect that chattel translates as 'wife', but that's a whole different kettle of fish.  Point is -  waking up from your failed 1800s suicide attempt to find your chattel being taken as a result - not going to help the chemical depression.

It's about standards, people.

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