Suicide Law & Legal Definition


Suicide is the taking of one's own life. Suicide and attempted suicide used to be crimes, but no longer are criminal offenses. Assisted suicide is a crime in almost all states, so incidents are almost always kept secret to avoid possible prosecution, although this is extremely rare.

Only one state in the U.S., Oregon, allows assisted suicide. In November l994, its citizens voted for Ballot Measure 16 which permits physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill under limited conditions. Despite opponents' attempts to block it in the courts, and a ballot initiative in l997 trying to repeal the law, The Death with Dignity Act withstood all challenges and became effective in October l997. During the first five years the Oregon law had been in effect, a total of 129 patients used it to end their lives -- about one in 1,000 of the state's death rate. In 2005, it was announced rhat Oregon's law will be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court. The law contains provisions for informed consent, including an explanation to the patient of alternatives to suicide, like pain relief and hospice care. Two doctors must agree on the patient's mental competence, diagnosis and prognosis; there must be a "reasonable medical judgment" that the patient will die within six months of "an incurable and irreversible disease."