Scholars criticized the manslaughter conviction of Michelle Carter almost as soon as the case was decided. Much of the criticism surrounding the case called for legislative action as the appropriate course of action. Fast forward a few years and Massachusetts is prosecuting another girlfriend for encouraging her boyfriend to kill himself. In response, Massachusetts has proposed legislation during the 2021 session aimed at criminalizing encouraging or assisting suicide, seeking to join several states that already have taken this approach. This Article considers the cause of suicide, recognizing it as a mental illness, and examines the societal harm associated with suicide. Then, this Article reviews the facts in four modern cases where the defendants were charged with encouraging another’s suicide and finds punishment was justified based on common theories of punishment. Lastly, this Article turns to the construction and validity of statutes criminalizing, encouraging, or assisting suicide. This Article will draw parallels with existing anti-hazing laws and highlight the problem with using the term “assisting” in these statutes before finally examining the likely effectiveness of Massachusetts’s proposed legislation.
Nicole Belbin, CRIMINAL LAW—WORDS MATTER: DISCOURAGING SUICIDE THROUGH THE AID OF LEGISLATION, 44 W. New Eng. L. Rev. 183 (), https://digitalcommons.law.wne.edu/lawreview/vol44/iss2/3