Criminalisation of suicide is archaic

I was disappointed to read that MPs and members of the public have reservations over the proposal to decriminalise attempted suicide (MPs express concern over decriminalisation of attempted suicide, May 7; and Why criminalising suicide is the right way to go, by Mr Leo Hee Khian, Oct 1, 2018).

While there has been research suggesting that the decriminalisation of suicide in seven nations led to higher suicide rates in the five years after decriminalisation than in the five years before, this may not indicate that the actual suicide rate increased.

Coroners and doctors may have been more likely to certify suicide deaths accurately after suicide was decriminalised, instead of disguising them.

Also, the criminalisation of suicide in the Penal Code is founded primarily on an ancient prohibition on suicide in English common law, which drew legitimacy from the fact that all rights and privileges in feudal England were ultimately bestowed or withheld by the absolute monarch, including the right to end one's life. This is no longer relevant today.

The criminalisation of suicide is archaic, and I urge all Singaporeans to reconsider its place in a democratic, post-colonial society.

There are better ways of dealing with this social and psychological issue.

Dennis Chan Hoi Yim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 14, 2019, with the headline 'Criminalisation of suicide is archaic'. Print Edition | Subscribe