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House kills suicide-related bills

March 06. 2014 12:13PM

CONCORD – The House Wednesday killed legislation that would have lessened the criminal responsibility of the who help terminally ill people commit suicide.

Current law makes it a crime for someone to aids or "solicits" another to commit suicide.

House Bill 1216 would have eliminated reference to solicitation, but the House killed it on an overwhelming vote of 259-45.

The followed the recommendation of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, which had voted 11-5 suggesting the House kill the bill.

The minority of the panel, which supported passage of the bill, said the current law's reference to "soliciting" another to commit suicide was vague and "murky" and should be removed.

But opponents of the bill said it is clear in the current law that "solicit" means to "entice" or to "strongly urge" someone to commit suicide.

"The committee received no evidence or testimony that this law is currently being abused," the majority said.

Also, the House killed House Bill 1292, which would have created an "affirmative defense" for a person charged with "causing" or "aiding" the suicide of another person who has a life expectancy of two years or less as certified by a physician, provided the person who aides the suicide "did so to alleviate the terminally ill person's pain and suffering."'

An affirmative defense mitigates, or lessens, the legal consequences of a defendant's unlawful conduct.

Lawmakers who advocated killing the bill said lessening penalties for one who helps another commit suicide is immoral and "violates a fundamental duty we have to respect human life."

But a supporter of the bill, Rep. Joel Winters, R-Nashua, told the House, "I agree very much with respecting human life, but when someone is suffering from a terminal illness and it is only a matter of time, and is suffering, respecting human life allows them to end it with dignity."

He pointed out that under the bill aiding in a suicide remains a crime, "however, if three conditions are met, you can defend youself against the Class B felony charge.

But Rep. Linda Harriot-Gathright, D-Nashua, said the Diocese of Manchester asked that the bill be killed because it raises more questions than it answers.

Rep. Laura Pantelakos, D-Portsmouth, said "the bill is unnecessary" because "everyone now has the right to an affirmative defense."

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