State Senate Aims to Tighten Assisted Suicide Laws

Apr 23, 2014

The state Senate has given initial approval to a bill that would make it easier to prosecute those who assist others in suicide. As Arizona Public Radio’s Parker Olson reports, the bill was prompted by several recent cases of assisted suicide in Arizona.

Rep. Justin Pierce
Credit Michael Schennum/The Arizona Republic, via Associated Press

Under current state law, assisting in another person’s suicide is considered manslaughter. The new legislation would broaden the language of the law and the definition of manslaughter to include, quote, “providing the physical means to commit suicide, with the knowledge that the person intends to do so.” Republican Senator Justin Pierce sponsored the bill.

“The policy of the state is that we don’t condone assisted suicide in Arizona. And this bill doesn’t change that policy of the state, it just tightens up the language so that there’s no ambiguity in it,” Pierce says.

However, some advocacy groups believe state legislators should stop criminalizing assisted suicide and create legal paths for professional assistance with the practice. Brian Wallace is an organizer with the non-profit group, Flagstaff Freethinkers.

“What we support is people being able to ease what is already as painful of a scenario as we can possibly manage,” Wallace says.

A full Senate vote is expected soon.