Assisted suicide or murder? - KOTA Territory News

Assisted suicide or murder?



Gary Jensen
Beardsley, Jensen and Von Wald

Killing a friend by shooting him in the head is murder, not assisted suicide, even if the friend wanted to commit suicide and asked for help.   

Suicide is the "intentional taking of one's own life."  When someone else takes the life by, for example, shooting the other person in the head, the deceased did not "take his or her own life" so it is not suicide.  If there's no suicide, there can be no assisting of suicide.

The issue was addressed by the South Dakota Supreme Court in State of South Dakota v. Goulding, 2011 S.D. 25, where the Defendant who shot his friend  argued he should be found guilty of the lesser offense of "assisted suicide" rather than murder.  The Court rejected his argument, stating: 

We conclude that the assistance "in any manner" language of SDCL 22-16-37 (the assisted suicide statute) does not contemplate a third party's overt act that directly causes the death of another person.

How might this issue arise?  Theoretically, any time life drives an individual to want to end his life such as terminal illness or pain, pending incarceration, or intractable drug abuse.


E-mail Gary is intended as general information on legal issues affecting us all.  This information should not be relied upon in any particular case and should never be used in lieu of consulting with an attorney.


1.      You see yet another car accident at a spot where there have been many accidents in the past and will be more accidents in the future? 


2.      You learn another person is hurt using a machine that has injured others in the past and will injure others in the future? 


3.      You watch a dangerous practice – like where a school bus parks – you know is a disaster waiting to happen?  


What should you do? 


Try to prevent the next accident, injury, and catastrophe from happening. 


How can you do that? 


Send a letter or email to those responsible – the highway department, the owner and operator of the machine, the school district - putting them on notice of the danger.


Your letter or email will either prompt a "fix" or help the next innocent victim establish liability against those who failed to act.   


Taking a few minutes to write a letter or email can have a huge impact; you can be a difference maker. 

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