Singapore's suicide law not blind adherence to past

Posed photo of a depressed person.
Posed photo of a depressed person.PHOTO: ST FILE

The discussion on criminalising attempted suicide was a discussion of how a democratic state like Singapore, through its laws, signals the importance of life, which is crucial.

We should, therefore, be very careful when raising points, regardless of which side we are supporting.

I am thus deeply concerned by points raised by ST Forum contributor Dennis Chan Hoi Yim (Criminalisation of suicide is archaic, May 14) because his arguments contained two critical fallacies.

Mr Chan, despite bringing up factual and scientific research to prove that the number of suicides increased after decriminalisation, chose to give more weight to a speculative point than the concrete findings from the research. He inevitably fell into the confirmation bias trap of believing what he wants to believe despite concrete evidence that suggest otherwise.

His suggestion that the support of criminalisation of attempted suicides must be undemocratic, feudalistic and colonialistic is a false dichotomy.

Many who disagreed with the decriminalisation of attempted suicides did so notwithstanding English common law.

They did so because they strongly believe in the objective value and preciousness of human life.

Also, due to our history, it is not surprising that many of the laws in Singapore, including those that are widely accepted, were inherited from English common law.

The retention of these laws till today in Singapore's Penal Code is not because of a blind following of the English common law, but through a democratic process of deliberation over the years in the Singapore Parliament.

It is unfair to claim that just because a law originates in English common law, it implies that we are undemocratic and have not moved on from our colonial past.

One thing that Mr Chan did point out correctly is that the issue of suicide is a complex social and psychological one. There are many ways in which the state and society must support a person who attempted suicide, as well as his family. We must extend the proper support and remove the stigma attached to persons who attempted or have the inclination to attempt suicide.

Leong Chun Keong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 23, 2019, with the headline 'Singapore's suicide law not blind adherence to past'. Print Edition | Subscribe