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Legal Guidance  -  Suicide

 

 

This Guidance Notice seeks to give information to healers in England on the legislation connected with assisting people to commit suicide.

 

Please note that I am not a qualified legal practitioner and healers affected by this legislation should seek professional legal advice as appropriate.

 

Please read the introductory guidance on the legislative process in the United Kingdom and Crown Dependencies before reading this Notice. Click here to go to the introductory guidance.  

 

 

Chapter 60 of the Suicide Act 1961 is reproduced below under the terms of Crown Copyright Policy Guidance issued by HMSO (Her Majesty’s Stationery Office).  Copyright is owned by the Crown and information on reproduction rights may be found on the HMSO website at http://www.opsi.gov.uk/advice/crown-copyright/copyright-guidance/reproduction-of-legislation.htm .

 

 

 

 

 

 

Background

 

At some point, the current physical life ends for all of us. This can be through natural causes. As advised in my training manuals, the cellular division process in the physical body is heavily dependent upon the enzyme telemerase. As we age, the production of telemerase slows down which disrupts the cell division process and causes deterioration of the physical body. This deterioration reduces the body’s ability to fight disease and infection and can result also in organ and system failure. Death can also take place early due to other factors such as accident and injury, poisoning, incorrect nutrition, cancer, etc.. As healers, we will from time to time be called to assist people who have been told that they have a terminal condition or who have been told that there is a high probability of death in the coming months.  Sometimes the clients concerned will be suffering unbearable pain or depression and would be happier to pass on rather than to try to remain alive. As healers, we know that when a person dies, the stream of consciousness of the person does not die but merely moves to a higher energy frequency outside of the physical body. It is only the physical body that dies. The natural instinct for a healer would be to do the best for the person from the holistic perspective, not only for the remaining time in the physical body but also to help prepare for the transition of passing on by working with the client to clear as much emotional and mental baggage as possible. The law has its own perspective for such situations. The relevant legislation in England is Chapter 60 of the Suicide Act 1961 which was introduced to amend previous legislation. Although committing suicide was no longer a crime, any third party involved in any way with helping a person committing suicide (such as counselling, aiding, encouraging suicide) would be committing a criminal act and liable to prosecution. Chapter 60 of the Suicide Act 1961 is reproduced below so that visitors can read the legislation for themselves.

 

Healers need to understand that if somebody has decided to commit suicide either proactively or passively (for example by refusing to take the medication prescribed by medical professionals that is supporting the ongoing physical assistance) and that if the healer is aware of this, the healer automatically will be in a situation where he or she could be accused of aiding suicide.   

 

Healers also need to be aware than when attending a person likely to die in the presence of their friends and relatives, the words that the healer uses with the client could be liable to misinterpretation by the friends and relatives and the healer could unwittingly be placed in the situation where he or she could be accused of aiding somebody to die. This is more likely if the friends and relatives are emotionally distressed because of the situation with the client and are not in a rational frame of mind. Additionally, words used could also be misinterpreted by the client.

 

Healers should not make any comment on medication prescribed by the medical professionals and should not seek to encourage the client in any way not to take medication as prescribed. Healers should not seek to encourage the client to supplement prescribed medicines with herbal or similar products as the supplementary products could affect adversely the impact of the medication.   

 

My guidance to people who have learned the energies with me, therefore, is to read the legislation below and to work out how they will approach situations where they are called to assist people with terminal conditions. I would suggest considering explaining the law to clients at the outset and advise them clearly what you can or cannot help with in the context of the law. It might be helpful to give this to the client in written form. Should you feel that it is likely that the client wants physical life to end, I would also suggest that you advise quite clearly that you will not be able to attend the client if you know that he or she is trying to pass on. I would also suggest that at each visit you consider making enquiries about any medication prescribed by the medical professionals and in a discrete way check if possible that this has all been taken. I would suggest that you consider being somewhat circumspect or cautious about what you say about matters of life and death in front of friends and relatives. Additionally, if you know or suspect that friends or relatives might have the intention to help a person commit suicide, the requirement for client confidentiality does not apply if the law is likely to be broken or is being broken and you should take advice about reporting the matter to the police. This might all sound somewhat cold hearted and unsupportive of the client. However, we all have a duty to look after ourselves and need to be in a position where our actions cannot be considered to breach the relevant legislation. 

 

You might feel it appropriate to take independent advice about this area from any professional alternative therapy body that you belong to or from your local Citizens Advice Bureau. It might also be prudent to check for any guidance from your insurance company in the context of insurance taken out for your work.              

 

Could visitors to this website please note that the Suicide Act to which I refer is legislation that was passed originally for England and Wales only. Healers in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the offshore islands should make their own checks about what local legislation affects them in their locations.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reproduction of the legislation

 

Suicide Act, 1961.

9&10 ELIZ.2  CH.60.

 

 

CHAPTER 60

An Act to amend the law of England and Wales relating to suicide, and for purposes connected therewith. (3rd August, 1961)

 

 

Be it enacted by the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:-

1. The rule of law, whereby it is a crime for a person to commit suicide is hereby abrogated.

2. (1) A person who aids, abets, counsels or procures the suicide of another, or an attempt by another to commit suicide, shall be liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.

      (2) If on the trial of an indictment for murder or manslaughter it is proved that the accused aided, abetted, counselled or procured the suicide of the person in question, the jury may find him guilty of that offence.

      (3)The enactments mentioned in the first column of the first Schedule to the Act shall have effect subject to the amendments provided for in the second column (which preserve in relation to offences under this section the previous operation of those enactments in relation to murder or manslaughter).

      (4) An indictment for an offence under this section shall not be triable by a court of quarter sessions; and (subject to sections thirteen and forty of the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933, as applied by subsection (3) above) no proceedings shall be instituted for an offence under this section except by or with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

3.(1)This Act may be cited as the Suicide Act, 1961.

     (2)The enactments mentioned in the Second Schedule to this Act are hereby repealed to the extent specified in the third column of the Schedule.

     (3)This Act shall extend to England and Wales only, except as regards the amendments made by Part II of the First Schedule except that the Interments (felo de sec) Act, 1882, shall be repealed also for the Channel Islands.

 

 

SCHEDULES

 

FIRST SCHEDULE

 

ADAPTATION OF ENACTMENTS RELATING TO MURDER OR MANSLAUGHTER

 

PART 1

AMENDMENTS LIMITED TO ENGLAND AND WALES

Enactment and Subject Matter

 

The Coroners (Amendment) Act, 1926 –

Section twenty (Effect on coroners’ duties of prosecution for murder, etc.).

 

The Children and Young Persons Act, 1933 – First Schedule (Offences to which special provisions of the Act apply).

 

Amendment

 

The references to murder, manslaughter or infanticide shall also apply to aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring suicide.

 

The references to the murder or manslaughter of a child or young person shall apply also to aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring the suicide of a child or young person.

 

PART II

AMENDMENTS NOT LIMITED TO ENGLAND AND WALES

The Extradition Act, 1870 –

First Schedule (List of extradition crimes)

 

 

The Visiting Forces Act, 1952 –

Section seven (Effect on coroners’ duties

in England, Wales and Northern Ireland of certain proceedings for homicide).

 

 

Paragraph 1 of the Schedule (Offences not triable by courts of England, Wales or Northern Ireland in the cases provided for by section three of the Act).

 

 

 

 

 

The Army Act, 1955 –

Subsections (4) and (5) of section seventy (Exclusion of court martial jurisdiction over certain offences committed in the United Kingdom).

 

 

The Air Force Act, 1955 –

Subsections (4) and (5) of section seventy (Exclusion of court martial jurisdiction over certain offences committed in the United Kingdom).

 

 

The Naval Discipline Act, 1957 –

Subsection (2) of section forty eight  (Exclusion of court martial jurisdiction over certain offences committed in the United Kingdom).

The list of crimes shall include aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring suicide.

 

 

The definition of ‘‘homicide’’ in subsection (6) shall have effect as if after the references to murder, manslaughter and infanticide there were inserted a reference to aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring suicide.

 

 

In sub-paragraph (a) (which provides that murder and certain other offences are to be comprised in the expression ‘‘offences against the person’’) after the word ‘‘assault’’ there shall be inserted the words ‘‘ and any offence of  aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring suicide’’.

 

 

At the end of subsection (4) there shall be added the words 

‘’In this and the following subsection the references to murder shall apply also to aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring suicide.

 

 

At the end of subsection (4) there shall be added the words 

‘’In this and the following subsection the references to murder shall apply also to aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring suicide.

 

 

At the end of subsection (4) there shall be added the words 

‘’In this and the following subsection the references to murder shall apply also to aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring suicide.

 

 

 

SECOND SCHEDULE

REPEALS

 

 

Session and Chapter

Short Title

Extent of Repeal

33 & 34 Vict.c.23

 

45 & 46 Vict.c.19

 

 

15 & 16 Geo.6, and 1 Eliz.2. c.55

 

5 & 6 Eliz.2 c.11

The Forfeiture Act, 1870

 

The Interments (felo de se) Act, 1882

 

The Magistrates’Courts Act, 1952

 

The Homicide Act, 1957

In section one, the words ‘‘or felo de se’’.

 

The whole Act

 

 

Paragraph 15 of the First Schedule (except as respects proceedings commenced before the commencement of this Act).

 

In section four, in subsection (1) and in subsection (2), the words ‘‘killing himself or’’.

 

 

 

 

Date of posting:  30th January 2007

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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