Is Suicide Illegal in Singapore? Will I Be Punished for Trying?
As of 1 January 2020, attempting suicide is not illegal in Singapore. A person who attempts suicide will not be punished for trying.
However, if a police officer has reasons to suspect that a person is about to attempt suicide, or has attempted suicide, the officer will have certain powers to try and stop the attempt, and to prevent the person from getting hurt.
These powers include:
- Searching places (and forcibly gaining entry into these places if necessary)
- Searching people and removing all items found on them, except their clothes
- Searching for documents related to the suicide attempt
- Seizing and preventing the disposal of items related to the suicide attempt
Will a Person Who Succeeds in Committing Suicide Still Get Punished?
A person who succeeds and dies as a result of suicide in Singapore will also not be punished, for obvious reasons. The urban legend that a deceased person who dies via suicide will have his corpse handcuffed and arrested, and/or whipped as punishment, is merely a myth.
Instead, when a person dies by suicide, police procedure is to first check for vital signs. (If the person had hanged himself, the police will cut the person down first before checking for vital signs.)
The police will then secure the scene for further investigations. At the same time, the body is put into a body bag and transported via a police hearse to the Health Sciences Authority mortuary. There, a pathologist will examine the body to determine the cause of death.
Will a Person Who Encourages Another to Commit Suicide be Punished?
A person found guilty of abetting suicide (i.e. aiding another in attempting suicide) will be punished with a fine and also a jail term of up to 10 years, pursuant to section 306 of the Penal Code. This is especially so if such an abettor is motivated by malicious intentions.
Also, under section 305 of the Penal Code, if the person who attempted suicide was a minor, or lacked the capacity to understand the consequences of attempting or committing suicide:
- The abettor is liable for either the death penalty or life imprisonment, or up to 20 years’ jail and a fine, if the suicide attempt succeeded
- The abettor is liable for life imprisonment, or up to 20 years’ jail and a fine, if the suicide attempt failed and the attempter suffered hurt in the process
- The abettor is liable for up to 15 years’ jail and a fine if the suicide attempt failed and the attempter was not hurt
A minor refers to someone under 18 years old. On the other hand, a person lacking of capacity refers to someone unable to understand the consequences of suicide, whether due to situations such as having a mental condition, or being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Does a Doctor Commit an Offence by Turning Off a Person’s Life Support?
In contrast, as long as a person is above 21 years of age, he can sign a legal document known as an Advance Medical Directive. This document allows him to inform his doctor that he does not wish to be given life-sustaining treatment in the event that he is unconscious with a terminal illness such that he is unable to make his wishes known at that point in time.
In such cases, given the patient’s express consent, the doctor will not be held as an abettor of suicide if he switches off life support and allows the patient to die.
Life Can be a Struggle, But Know That You’re Not Alone
If you or someone you know in Singapore needs help, you can call the following helplines:
- Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444
- Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
- Institute of Mental Health’s Mental Health Helpline: 6389 2222
- Silver Ribbon: 6386 1928
- Tinkle Friend (for primary school students): 1800-274-4788
- Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800
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