“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” ― Proverbs 31:8–9
Losing someone is difficult. Every now and then, a family who has lost their loved one desperatly tries to tie a meaning to their loss. They persuade legislators to pass bills whose purpose is limiting the freedom of speech.
Why do rightous anti-choicers try to restrict the flow of information on choice? The main reason is envy. Envy stems from the feeling of discontent with regard to the success and the beauty of someone who has passed away. Envious anti-choicers, filled with resentment, feel shameful and inadequate when they see someone they loved has left them behind. Whilte their loved one has gone to a better place, they have to go back to their routines with a pain in their heart. That pain will give rise to hatred and superiority to sabotage or defame others. Alas, covetly sabotaging or defaming the envied person does not give them a long-lasting pleasure.
Anti-choicers shed tears because they feel inferior in the competition of exhibiting sympathy. They might have the opportunity to grasp the choice and reach their loved ones yet feel conflicted about doing it, since they feel undeserving of having peace and freedom. Bewildered, anti-choicers craft legislations to modulate the choice, because they feel insecure of being abandoned. After all, the envied person has left them for a better place, so they use agrression or devaluation to defend their vulneralbilities. When encountered with the choice, anti-choicers recoil to their primitive reactions: fear, hatred, anger, and patriarchy. Their advanced reactions, shaming and guilt-tripping pro-choicers, express the fear of ego-death.
(Sweeney, 2017) argued that no one should be convicted of encouraging or aiding an act that no longer is a crime. Since suicide is no longer illegal in the United States, encouraging suicide is not “inciting or producing imminent lawless action.” For the same reason, encouraging suicide does not fall under the “speech integral to criminal conduct exception.” Since a statute prohibiting encouraging suicide is not covered by an exception to the First Amendment, it must instead pass strict scrutiny. Under strict scrutiny, a content-based restriction can still “proscribe protected speech if it can show... that the law (1) is justified by a compelling government interest and (2) is narrowly drawn to serve that interest.” The narrowly tailored requirement would be the most difficult for such a statute to meet in seeking to survive strict scrutiny. A significant problem with any legislation intending to prohibit encouraging suicide is that it runs a substantial danger of being overinclusive and criminalizing otherwise innocent conduct.
Preventing suicide is a government interest; however, restricting speech is not the least restrictive method of achieving it. Because of the hollow that restricting speech will created when professionals won’t be able to talk or communicate with those who need help to live, such statues will cause loss of more lives rather than saving them. Furthermore, the overinclusiveness and boradness of such statues will put an end to medical professions, especially mental health, altogether. Suicide Wiki is filled with lawful documents—written in subtle language—including police reports, coroner reports, scientific papers, medical literature, and newspapers that educate, if not encourage, individuals to commit suicide.
The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution demand that “no person shall... be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” (Adside, 2019) argued that a conviction based upon a virtual-presence theory is unconstitutional, as it is void-for-vagueness. He suggested states that decide to criminalize suicide encouragement should consider issues to avoid vagueness difficulties and recommended two reforms that should be implemented by legislatures—not courts. Paradoxically, those reforms can convict (under certain scenarios) law enforcement and medical personnel.
Suzanne Michelle Gonzales
When Suzanne Michelle Gonzales left her Red Bluff, California home to go away to college, she was a bubbly 19-year-old with a quirky personality and a smile nobody could forget. She won a full-ride to Florida State University. But something happened when she went away to school: she became depressed and turned to the Internet, where she found a welcoming community of suicide newsgroups (ASH). Through the online groups, Gonzales found a permanent way to end her pain of depression. On 23 March 2003, she mixed a lethal dose of potassium cyanide[Archive] and tap water, checked its acidity with a pH meter, and drank it in a Tallahassee motel room. She delightfully robbed herself from her own life—something that others couldn’t stand it.
Federal legislation was crafted[Archive] in response to Suzanne's suicide after she got instructions on the Internet. “I would be more than happy, overjoyed if this bill was passed into law and that it was never used, [because] it was a deterrent,” said Mike Gonzales, whose daughter's death is behind House Resolution 853—also known as the Suzanne Gonzales Suicide Prevention Act of 2009. U.S. Rep. Wally Herger, R-Chico, introduced the bill February 9 after a previous version failed in committee.
The Gonzaleses, who say they've identified the person responsible, became frustrated when Florida police and lawyers told them they had no recourse but a civil lawsuit, something they couldn't afford. In the course of their campaign for HR 853, Mike Gonzales said he'd heard concerns the law would limit free speech, an allegation both he and Herger reject, in their mind.
“I don't think this really adds anything to make it a crime to assist somebody to commit suicide,” said Peter Scheer, a lawyer and journalist. State laws already address assisted suicide, Scheer said, and Herger's bill would not trump those statutes. “It's not any more of an Internet bill than most of the millions of federal statutes that are predicated on use of interstate commerce,” Scheer added, noting that communication by text-messaging, telephone, e-mail, letters and other means also is covered. “This law looks like it was written in 1969,” Scheer said. “There's absolutely nothing in there that would date it after the invention of the personal computer.” Calling the law “superfluous,” he said it's unlikely to pass.
The bill's aim[Archive], according to a website set up in Suzy's honor, is “to prohibit the use of the Internet as a tool to provide an individual with information on how to commit suicide if the information will likely be used in a suicide. Violation of this law will result in a fine and or a maximum five years in prison. If a violation results in a death, the maximum violation increases to possible life in prison.” The bill was named the Suzanne Gonzales Suicide Prevention Act of 2007, or “Suzy’s Law.” More than a decade has passed since Suzy’s Law was first introduced, but it has yet to gain traction in Washington. The Gonzales family has tried to keep the bill alive by getting it reintroduced every few years, including in 2009 and 2011.
Shawn Alexandra Shatto
Following a battle of depression, on 22 May 2019, Shawn Alexandra Shatto (username: Kakabushi) murdered herself by proxy; that is, a half of herself killed the other half by proxy (commonly known as suicide)–and she was given the choice. The choice came from Sanctioned Suicide forum that comfort her on her voyage. Shawn’s parents, Chip and Jacqueline Bieber of Newberry Township, grieved over their loss of their daughter. Being horrified of their daughter's choice, the Biebers went to the state Capitol on 19 September 2019 to urge state lawmakers to pass legislation that would impose stiffer penalties on people convicted of aiding or encouraging when at the time of the offense the person who committed suicide is under 18 years of age or has an intellectual disability.
York County Coroner Pam Gay said Shatto died from ingesting “an easily obtainable compound.” The coroner's office has ruled the death a suicide. Coroner Gay also said she had heard about such websites and that such things, as a macabre part of her job, shouldn’t shock her, but “it’s shocking to me.” “It’s a very disturbing case,” Gay said. “How can people do that and have a conscience and go to bed? It’s just disturbing.” Gay questioned why others online didn't do more to get her mental health help that she had refused herself.
Shawn’s parents described “it” a different way. “It’s sick,” her step-father said, using an ambiguous pronoun. “Not one person said there is another way,” Jackie Bieber, Shawn's mother, told the York Daily Record—implying that Sanctioned Suicide stands with mass shooting. “It's like a cult.”
State Rep. Dawn Keefer, R-York County, introduced the legislation, dubbed “Shawn’s Law,” in memory of Shatto. As expressed on a radio program, Keefer considered her bill as a first step that balances the desire to impose harsher penalties on people who defend choice with free speech rights. “We need to send a message to these disturbed people encouraging and guiding others to commit suicide,” Keefer said. “Our society will not tolerate these arcane and insensible actions.”
'Shawn's Law' was the second attempt to impose restrictions on pro-choice communities, but to no avail.
New censorship laws—namely, Regulation 28 report, otherwise known as a prevention of future death report regarding pro-choice suicide forums—prevents reaching to us the light of those who continued their journey. This censorship law was came to attention on a jury hearing about the death of a member of Sanctioned Suicide, Callie Alix Lewis, who chose to not commit to life.
In response to role of Sanctioned Suicide, the pro-death Samaritans want to find ways to “bury” sites like Sanctioned Suicide. “We don't want that popping up on the first pages of searches,” said Jacqui Morrissey, a spokeswoman for The Samaritans, in a sympathy-exhibition competition. “If we can't get rid of it, let's try and bury it, let's make it difficult to find for people so that when they are looking for information what they're coming across is the helpful supportive information first and foremost.” She continuted, “But content that encourages someone to harm themselves must be taken down. This requires a bold, international approach to the issue, as some of this content is hosted outside of the U.K. And at the very least, we must make it far harder to find harmful content, maximising opportunities for support and minimising potential for harm.”
On 12 February 2020, 2 days after airing a documentary about Callie Lewis, the U.K. government unveiled plans for Ofcom to regulate “harmful but not illegal” online content. U.K. ministers faced a backlash for putting free speech at risk. In order to make profit of what the U.K. governemnt does not own, there are suggestions that penalties could be up to 5 per cent of revenue, which would be millions of pounds for a tech giant like Facebook. The government insists the measures are designed to trammel online suicide forums. Concerns about the impact of social media on people come amid suicides such as that of 14-year-old schoolgirl Molly Russell in 2017, who was found to have viewed harmful content online. In anti-choicer's opinion, viewing suicidal contents caused the cheerful Molly to commit suicide, rather than Molly had issues that made her search for suicidal contents. When faced with nebulousness and enforcement of the proposal, the U.K. government desperately assembled a partial explanation for the public consultation. Unfortunate for the segregating U.K. government, some of the contents on Suicide Wiki are taken from social media networks that discuss medical topics—excluding suicide.
Callie Alix Lewis
Callie Lewis (username: Zanexx), 24, from Dover, was using an online suicide forum, sanctionedsuicide.net (the forum now appears under the Internet address sanctionedsuicide.com). Through the forum she was able to engage in discussions with other pro-choice members and obtain tips how to liberate herself from the oppression of mental health workers to avoid being sectioned under the Mental Health Act and how to perfect the methods of leaving her life that she had been considering. She was enabled by the tips provided through the forum to outwit the frustrated mental health prosecution thereafter leaving behind her life. Leaving behind her own life annoyed entitled anti-choicers.
Over a month before her death, Callie started chatting with strangers in online Sanctioned Suicide forum—the freedom of speech champion. In one of her first posts, Callie said, “I’m glad I’ve found this site as it feels near impossible to discuss suicide openly.” In posts on the Sanctioned Suicide forum, Callie told other users about failed hanging attempts. After hanging out on the forum, Callie discovered charcoal-burning suicide method and even bought a “suicide kit,” which she later used to end her life.
Callie was staying with Jan. Jan—a former special needs teacher—alerted Callie's mother out of concern for Callie's safety. Jan said, “She felt that if she communicated with me she wouldn't be able to do it, but if she cut me off and communicated with them they would make sure she did it.” According to Jan, Callie had become “engrossed” in suicide websites which were “encouraging her how to do it.” Jan branded the forum “very damaging.” Despite finding a noose and noticing bruise marks on her neck, police were unable to detain her because she was on private property. On 14 August 2018, Callie posted, “The police are here now. My friend [Jan] called them, so we probably aren't friends anymore.” Callie turned to the suicide forum for help, asking, “Any advice for the crisis team? I’m seeing them in two hours.” One user advised her, “You’ll have to play along and pretend that it was just a passing cloud and that you’re ‘getting better’.” Taking the advice on board, Callie was released—and her family were once again left in a frantic bid.
Informed by Jan, Callie's mum believes the website played a significant role in her daughter's death in August 2018. “Without those forums, I think my daughter would have struggled to find the information that she was looking for about how to die,” Sarah said. “When we found out about the suicide website she'd been on, that set off an alarm bell—it began to feel like an obsession,” says Callie's granddad, Graham Lewis. “She could have a depressive mood and suicidal thoughts, and that was manageable because you could help her through that. “But her obsessions, you just couldn’t do anything about them.”
On 15 August 2018, Callie posted, “My mother called them [the police] because I wasn't answering the phone to her or other relatives and I was intercepted at the station carrying a tent. May get sectioned.” Callie spent the night with officers in a police car, waiting for a mental health bed to become available in Canterbury, Kent.
The next morning, Callie had a mental health assessment but denied having any immediate intention of wanting to kill herself. She'd already asked forum users for advice on convincing NHS staff she was OK before the assessment. She also told mental health professionals that she didn't want her mum to be given any information about her treatment as she was over 18. Callie's care was then taken over by her local Community Mental Health Team, who called Callie three times and got no response. Rules say when this happens, someone must visit the person at home—but this didn't happen. The person assigned to be Callie's case worker then went off sick. No one was appointed to take over Callie's case. It took 13 days before Kent and Medway NHS Trust realised Callie had gone missing and in that time, she had killed herself.
Callie Lewis went to stay in Windermere, Cumbria—350 miles away from her mum—where she remained for several days before taking her life. In one of her posts she said, “Okay, I'll disclose my location... I'm in Cumbria. If anyone lives nearish and wants to buy a one-time used tent please let me know. I guess I'll have to bite the bullet, buy my 3rd tent, stay alive another night and go to Blackpool to collect it tomorrow. I'm going to look at the cost of getting there.” The truth is Callie was determined to kill herself. She twice extended her stay because her small, green, pop-up tent couldn't be used as a gas chamber for charcoal-burning suicide method, so she went back by train to return and exchange her tent. Riding on the train with her newly exchanged tent, she delightfully sent a photo of the tent, pictured her blue jeans and black boots that she had worn in the cat café.
After stopping communication with family and friends before her death, the last people Callie spoke to were the forum users. In her last post, she said, “Dying now guys. I'm getting slightly short of breath and I can sense the CO in the air. I think it will work this time... provided I can stick it out... which I really really hope I can. I'm going to try and listen to music and drift off to sleep... goodnight... x”. Instead of trying to get her sectioned, the forum users let her make her own choice. “Good luck. We all wish you a swift travel,” wrote one. “May you find peace, my friend,” said another.
Coroner Harding said, “[The website] enabled Callie to frustrate the mental health process, and provided her with information regarding the means with which she ended her life.” Also cited was a lack of training and knowledge in relation to autism and suicide forums, as well as a lack of clarity and consistency regarding recording risk assessments, and a failure to report relevant information.
In her redacted report[1|2|3|4|5], Patricia Harding, senior coroner for the coroner area of Central and South East Kent, complimented the quality of contents on the Sanctioned Suicide forum, albeit she later redacted the forum address[1|2|3|4], too. She did so under the pretense that it was her statutory duty. This was the second time Sanctioned Suicide received an admiration from a coroner.
Her mother imagined Callie still alive at 90 surrounded by cats and cups of tea probably still saying she wanted to die, but that wasn't what Callie saw in her life till age 90. Living till 90 was one aspect of Callie's life that her mother wanted to see. Her family thinks that if she hadn't received the tips on how to evade the NHS, she would meet the mental health workers, and—this time, unlike the other times—she would be cured. Then, she wouldn't kill herself. That's one way to look at it, but there's no way of proving that scenerio would occur. In the scenerio that has happened, a breaking confidence and mistrust from a friend, couple with police visit, provoked Callie to act on her plan. Even if police hadn't visited her twice, she—in her state—would become volatile and act on her plan, sooner or later.
Whatever happened since she joined the Sanction Suicide forum was part of a series of actions that lead to her death (or a series of actions she had reached to take). A desire to do something with life. A girl with mental health issues. A concerned family. A friend who called the police when he realized Callie was suicidal. Diligent police officers. Exhausted staff and overloaded mental health system. A site that gave tips on how to evade being sectioned.
Callie wasn't lost here; she was helped. Somebody somewhere was caring for her. Her family could look at why she reached the decision to kill herself and took steps that the outcome of them were her death—whether the actions lead to her death or she lead the actions for her death. For start, she had obsessive thoughts, so she continuted her suicide attempt vigorously. Having obsessions and unwillingness to change the mindframe are against your life when you attempt suicide, but that doesn't answer why she reached Santioned Suicide in the first place. The crux of the matter is the cure that everybody wanted Callie to have, but nobody knows how to describe it. Callie's death can be blamed on her Asperger's syndrome or her chronic depression, and how those conditions were entangled with the NHS, police, and the Sanctioned Suicide forum—above all, she felt stagnated. Callie was living in the society, but she wasn't part of it. Assuming there was no solution (or how-to) for her stay in her social environment, she democratically left it with minimum damage to it.
Callie's suicide was featured in a documentary, Failed by the NHS Callies Story - Panorama (2020) Documentary, available for view on dailymotion and download on multiple hosts. The Panorama documentary, aired on 10 February 2020, told Callie's story, looking at the role suicide forums played in her death and challenging the NHS over what they have acknowledged as failings in Callie's care.
In another case, suicide of a man (although not a member of Sanctioned Suicide) brought to attention the stigma attached to freedom.
More than 100 families claimed that online tutorials played a major part in the suicide of their loved ones in 2019, according to Papyrus. Papyrus chief executive Ged Flynn said, “Showing people methods of taking their lives makes it more likely that vulnerable people will do it. The Government needs to act now.” That was another exoneration attempt on the side of anti-choicers who offer no evidences, witnesses, or proofs.
Molly Russell killed herself in her bedroom in November 2017. Her family later found she had been viewing material on Instagram and Pinterest linked to anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide. Molly’s father, Ian Russell, 56, a former BBC producer, who has set up the Molly Rose Foundation to raise awareness of harmful online content, said, “The site used by Callie is the worst and most salacious I’ve seen and very quickly users can get details about how to take one’s life,” sounding like a necrophil. He admitted, “There will be people who claim the Internet should be free for all to use as they wish.”
Federal law enforcement and cyber experts have expressed “deep concern” about a pro-choice suicide website that helped to facilitate the recent death of a young West Australian. Australian Federal Police have blocked access to the site, in an unprecedented move, after a young man took his own life aided by the thousands of users active on the pro-choice suicide forum. They also want social media and search engine providers to take more responsibility. The young man’s father is understood to be strongly advocating for greater action to ensure no other family experiences such tragedy.
In a statement to The Weekend West, the AFP said it was made aware of the overseas-hosted website, which this paper has seen and is choosing not to name, in January. It included more than 288,000 forum messages from members discussing and aiding suicide and a “suicide wiki” portal. “The AFP is working with ISPs to redirect members to an AFP ‘stop page’, which will have links to direct vulnerable users to mental health support services.” ESafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant, who was also alerted to the website, said the office had “explored a range of options and reached out to international and domestic law enforcement partners” to have it blocked. Professor McGorry warned that “we could see more of these cases unless more is done to prevent Australians getting access to these sites.” Eminent child psychologist and cyber expert Michael Carr-Gregg said the Government needed to provide more resources and powers to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner so sites were taken down as soon as possible. Suicide Prevention Australia chief executive Nevis Murray said there should be a “national action strategy.” Mindframe suicide prevention program manager Marc Bryant said search engine companies needed to show international leadership on stopping access to the sites. “We join with others in calling for online search engine companies to take action and ensure digital environments are safe for everyone,” a Beyond Blue spokeswoman said.
- Sean Sweeney, Deadly Speech: Encouraging Suicide and Problematic Prosecutions, 67 Case W. Res. L. Rev. 941 (2017) [Full Text: 1|2|3|4]