Hastings International and Comparative Law Review


Benjamin P. Fay


Various societies try to deal with the problem of suicide by criminalizing assisted suicide, attempted suicide, and sometimes even suicide itself. In the United States, suicide and attempted suicide are generally no longer criminalized. However, many states are grappling with the question of whether to criminalize assisted suicide. This Note examines suicide laws in two very different cultures, England and India, in order to determine whether there is a common lesson to be learned. The author concludes that the resolution of the question of whether to criminalize suicide or attempted suicide involves weighing the individual's interest in self-determination against the society's interest in preserving the lives of its members. However, the criminalization of assisted suicide is significantly more complicated because the assister's choice to abet the suicide can overshadow the individual's choice to commit suicide. Whether suicide, attempted suicide, or assisted suicide should be criminalized is culturally determined. The experiences of England and India demonstrate that suicide laws that do not reflect the cultural values of the society will be extremely difficult to enforce.