Kill yourself! <------Is that 'free speech' or 'aiding suicide'?

Is encouraging a depressed person to kill himself the legal equivalent of shouting "Fire!" in a crowded movie theater? The Minnesota Supreme Court is about to decide.

"A former Minnesota nurse accused of visiting online chat rooms and encouraging people to kill themselves, and who was ultimately convicted of aiding two suicides, may learn Wednesday whether the state's highest court accepts his argument of free speech.

"William Melchert-Dinkel is challenging the state law used to convict him in 2011, saying he was merely offering support to the victims. His attorney has argued that the law — which states that anyone who 'intentionally advises, encourages, or assists another in taking the other's own life' is guilty of a crime — is too broad."

[http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/minn-court-ruling-expected-aidin...]

 

 

Tags: Court, Melchert-Dinkel, Minnesota, Supreme, William, free, speech, suicide

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In my opinion, this is a dreadful thing to do, and if it's against the law, that's a good thing.  Who is this freak?  Dr Death?  If someone's suicidal, the right thing to do is always to try and save them.  Then they get another chance to live and be well. 

In my opinion, this is a dreadful thing to do, and if it's against the law, that's a good thing.  Who is this freak?  Dr Death?  If someone's suicidal, the right thing to do is always to try and save them.  Then they get another chance to live and be well.

I agree. What Melchert-Dinkel did was despicable. However...

Today the Minnesota Supreme Court overturned his convictions on "advising and encouraging" suicide and the part of the law which banned such encouragement. But it also left the door open for the lower court to convict him on "assisting" suicide, which requires proof that Melchert-Dinkel stepped beyond mere advice and into actual enabling.

Freedom of speech is an extremely well-protected right under the US Constitution. I would have been shocked if the law was upheld.

But I'm also glad Melchert-Dinkel may still be headed for prison. The court ruled that some types of speech could be considered as 'assisting' suicide. That may include what Melchert-Dinkel did: providing a teenager with instructions on how to hang himself. ("[J]ust a sturdy knot is very much all one needs.")

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The Minnesota Supreme Court reversed the convictions of a former nurse accused of trolling the Internet for suicidal people and encouraging two to kill themselves, ruling Wednesday that part of a law banning someone from "encouraging" suicide is unconstitutional.

William Melchert-Dinkel was convicted in 2011 of two counts of aiding suicide, after a judge found he "intentionally advised and encouraged" an English man and a Canadian woman to take their own lives.

But the state's highest court found that language in Minnesota's law that makes it illegal to "advise" or "encourage" suicide is too broad and encompasses speech that expresses a viewpoint and is protected under the First Amendment.

However, the justices upheld part of the law that makes it a crime to "assist" in someone's suicide — and said speech could be considered assisting. Since the lower court judge did not issue a ruling on "assisting" suicide, Melchert-Dinkel's case was sent back to that judge for further consideration.

[...]

Justice Barry Anderson, writing for the majority, said speech alone can be used to assist or enable a suicide if it is narrowly targeted to one person and provides that person with what is needed to carry out the act.

"This signifies a level of involvement in the suicide beyond merely expressing a moral viewpoint or providing general comfort or support. Rather, 'assist,' by its plain meaning, involves enabling the person to commit suicide," he wrote.

"Here, we need only note that speech instructing another on suicide methods falls within the ambit of constitutional limitations on speech ..." the ruling said.

Melchert-Dinkel's attorney, Terry Watkins, said he doesn't believe there's enough evidence to prove his client assisted in the deaths.

(Source) [I encourage you to read the whole article for the details.]

"That may include what Melchert-Dinkel did: providing a teenager with instructions on how to hang himself."  - there are sites which offer this information, for "interest" only.  But to actively egg someone on steps over the line imo. 

To encourage a stranger to seek their own demise is kind of bizarre. I may be sympathetic to a friend who is faced with an unbearable situation but why have an interest in a stranger? The decision is ultimately theirs.

If this is the standard our society requires then I suppose we can be prosecuted for telling someone to go rob a bank as well.

"we can be prosecuted for telling someone to go rob a bank as well."  - depending on the circumstances, this may be covered under the conspiracy laws. 

I understand the need for the sanctity of free speech, and that's admirable.  But someone who is suicidal is often hanging on by their fingertips, and this guy stamped on their hands and kicked them off.  This is a situation where the harm of allowing free speech far outweighs the benefit of being free to speak. 

I get a migraine twice a year. I cannot describe the agony. If this started happening more and more frequently and I tried everything ... my family would accept my ultimate decision for euthanasia and come with me to Switzerland. What if they and my friends didn't respect it. Who would I go to for support? Not a guy who trolls the suicidal ... but I would appreciate the support of a stranger online who listened to my situation thoroughly and condoned whatever I decided.

I think that euthanasia because of physical illness, and suicide because of (temporary, reversible) depression are two different things. 

I agree to a certain extent but it's very difficult to draw the line between temporary/reversible and not-sure-could-get-better. And what about quadriplegics who cannot bear the limitations? A soldier who cannot find happiness after butchering civilians? A very old person who's lost the love of their life to cancer and their family? It's their choice ... and no one else’s. Someone shouldn't be prohibited from supporting a choice that someone makes about their own life.

Interesting. Telling someone to commit murder is a crime. Is suicide a subset of murder or a separate concept? Calling for death is a pretty rotten thing in my opinion.

If the patient with an incredibly painful and incurable affliction takes their own life, I wouldn't fault them. If the morphine et al still cannot preserve some quality to the human life, I could not fault them for taking their own life.

Melchert-Dinkel may have good intentions, but freelance Kervorkianism is highly questionable. I also find the lack of discourse surprising. It's 2014, but suicide is a rather dark subject. Surprising because the only thing that's different today is that the information age has truly replaced the industrial age, and we're not sure what to do with all of this information. 

I do know that eugenics bothers me. Is it free speech?

Excellent question, a real honeydew of a melon scratcher!   

Illegal suicide is an oxymoron.

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