National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy


Rational Suicide, Irrational Laws

Examining Current Approaches to Suicide in Policy and Law

Susan Stefan

American Psychology-Law Society Series

OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS

512 Pages

February 2016

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

ISBN: 9780199981199

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Description

When should we try to prevent suicide? Should it be facilitated for some people, in some circumstances? For the last forty years, law and policy on suicide have followed two separate and distinct tracks: laws aimed at preventing suicide and, increasingly, laws aimed at facilitating it.

In Rational Suicide, Irrational Laws legal scholar Susan Stefan argues that these laws co-exist because they are based on two radically disparate conceptions of the would-be suicide. This is the first book that unifies policies and laws, including constitutional law, criminal law, malpractice law, and civil commitment law, toward people who want to end their lives. Based on the author's expert understanding of mental health and legal systems, analysis of related national and international laws and policy, and surveys and interviews with more than 300 suicide-attempt survivors, doctors, lawyers, and mental health professionals, Rational Suicide, Irrational Laws exposes the counterproductive nature of current policies and laws about suicide. Stefan proposes and defends specific reforms, including increased protection of mental health professionals from liability, increased protection of suicidal people from coercive interventions, reframing medical involvement in assisted suicide, and focusing on approaches to suicidal people that help them rather than assuming suicidality is always a symptom of mental illness. Stefan compares policies and laws in different states in the U.S. and examines the policies and laws of other countries in Europe, Asia, and the Americas, including the 2015 legalization of assisted suicide in Canada. The book includes model statutes, seven in-depth studies of people whose cases presented profound ethical, legal, and policy dilemmas, and over a thousand cases interpreting rights and responsibilities relating to suicide, especially in the area of psychiatric malpractice.



Policy discussions and case law about suicide in the United States have proceeded along two separate and distinct tracks for the past two decades: laws aimed at preventing suicide and laws aimed at facilitating it. These laws co-exist because they are based on two radically disparate conceptions of the would-be suicide.

Rational Suicide, Irrational Laws is the first book to bring together these concepts to discuss assisted suicide in the context of people with psychiatric disabilities and examine the failure of suicide prevention policy. Based on surveys and interviews of over 300 suicide attempt survivors, doctors, lawyers, and mental health professionals, it painstakingly exposes the irrationality of current policies and laws about suicide, including assisted suicide. Susan Stefan suggests specific reforms, including increased protection of mental health professionals from liability, increased protection of suicidal people from coercive interventions, reframing medical involvement in assisted suicide, encouraging universities to stop forcing suicidal students to leave, and focusing on approaches to suicidal people that have helped them rather than assuming suicidality is always a symptom of an underlying mental illness. Stefan provides a comparison of US policies with those of countries in Europe, Asia, and Central America and covers the 2015 legalization of assisted suicide in Canada. The book includes a model statute, seven in-depth studies of people whose cases presented profound ethical, legal, and policy dilemmas, and over a thousand cases interpreting rights and responsibilities relating to suicide, especially in the area of psychiatric malpractice.


Table of Contents

Series Foreword 
Acknowledgments
Introduction

Chapter 1: "Sane" and "Insane" Suicide: The Law of Competence
Chapter 2: The Right to Die, Involuntary Commitment, and the Constitution 
Chapter 3: Assisted Suicide in the States
Chapter 4: International Perspectives in Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia
Chapter 5: Assisted Suicide and the Medical Profession
Chapter 6: Mental Health Professionals and Suicide
Chapter 7: Types of Suicide
Chapter 8: Discrimination on the Basis of Suicidality
Chapter 9: Prevention and Treatment: Policy and Legal Barriers
Chapter 10: Conclusion: People with Psychiatric Diagnoses and Assisted Suicide

Appendix A: Model Statutes

Appendix B: Survey of People Who Have Attempted Suicide 
1. Survey: Experiences with Suicide
2. Final Results of Survey

Table of Cases
Bibliography
Author Index
Subject Index

 


 

Author Information

Susan Stefan is the author of four books on law and policy relating to people with psychiatric disabilities and has worked nationally and internationally as a consultant on systems reform issues. She litigated class actions in state and federal court, has served as an expert witness, and was a Professor of Law at the University of Miami School of Law.


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