Minnesota high court reverses conviction for encouraging suicide

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Minnesota [official website] ruled [text, PDF] Wednesday that part of a Minnesota statute prohibiting the advising or encouraging of suicide is unconstitutional. The court overturned the conviction of William Melchert-Dinkel, who was convicted in 2011 of two counts of aiding suicide, after a judge found he "intentionally advised and encouraged" two individuals, one in Canada and one England, to commit suicide. The court found that the terms "advises" and "encourages" within Minn. Stat. § 609.215 [text] which makes it illegal to "intentionally advise, encourage, or assist another in taking the other's own life," were unconstitutional in violation of the First Amendment [text, LII backgrounder]. The court upheld the "assist" portion of the law concluding "that the proscription against 'assist[ing]' another in taking the other's own life is narrowly drawn to serve the State's compelling interest in preserving human life." The court's decision severs the words "advises" and "encourages" from the statute but maintains the prohibition against assisting suicide. The court remanded Melchert-Dinkel case to the lower district court because the district court made no findings regarding whether appellant assisted the victims' suicides within the newly severed statute.

The right to die [JURIST news archive] has been a contentious issue in the US and around the world. In October the Minnesota Court of Appeals [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that the same state law ruled on by the Minnesota Supreme Court Wednesday criminalizing speech that "advises" and "encourages" another's suicide was unconstitutional. The suit was filed against the national right-to-die group Final Exit Network [advocacy website] after they were charged with the 2007 suicide of a Minnesota woman.

 

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