Suicide laws: good or bad?

What do you think?

Doctors warn suicide law stops people from seeking help

The law against suicide prevents suicidal people and their families from seeking help, doctors say.

People who attempt suicide can be fined up to Dh5,000, jailed for up to six months, or both.

The legislation “can deter people and their families from seeking help for fear that their loved ones will be arrested or put in jail”, said Dr Yousef Abou Allaban, a medical director and consultant psychiatrist at the American Center for Psychiatry and Neurology in Abu Dhabi.

Just recently a man in Dubai received a one-month prison term and a woman, also from Dubai, was given a one-month suspended sentence for attempting suicide.

However, the law was not always enforced if psychological illness could be shown, Dr Abou Allaban said.

“An attempted suicide victim is admitted to the hospital, where they will receive psychiatric treatment. The individual will be under police custody for 24 hours,” he said.

“Once it is determined that the individual acted this way because of a psychological illness, the case is sent to the medical board and the individual is released from any fine or penalty.”

However, people still avoided seeking the support they needed for fear of incrimination.

“The police are still involved, and for someone who is suffering from depression, it only adds to their pain and agony,” Dr Abou Allaban said. “When someone reaches such a level of desperation, they need to know that there is help available and that this is not a crime.”

Article No 335 in the UAE penal code stipulates that a person who attempts suicide is subject to “imprisonment that does not exceed six months, or a fine that does not exceed Dh5,000, or both”.

Yousef Al Bahar, of the Dubai law firm Al Bahar & Associates, said the legislation was not rigorous enough.

“In many instances, the judges only give fines or a maximum prison sentence of one month, [although] the law only stipulates a maximum period of six months,” he said.

“A more deterrent penalty, a compulsory jail term of a minimum period of six months, along with the fine, should instead be imposed.”

Mr Al Bahar said the verdict should also include a compulsory rehabilitation programme to prevent future suicide attempts.

In July, a 46-year-old Indian housewife was sentenced to a one-month suspended sentence for slitting a wrist and swallowing nearly 50 paracetamol tablets.

And a 35-year-old Syrian man was sentenced to one month in prison for attempting suicide because of money problems.

Dubai police reports show that there have been 31 suicide attempts and 25 suicides so far this year. In 2010, they reported 67 attempts and 58 suicides. Officials acknowledged that not all cases were reported.

Col Ali Ghanem, the director of the Bur Dubai police station, said that although he understood the sensitivity of the issue, he was still required to refer all cases to public prosecution.

“Each person needs to follow the laws of the country one lives in, and to [try to]commit suicide is punishable by law and Sharia,” he said.

While the police had the right to detain those who had attempted suicide, they only did so when they felt individuals might harm themselves again, he said.

Dr Biniam Tesfayohannes, a consultant for the emergency department at Abu Dhabi’s Al Mafraq Hospital, said that when the hospital received an attempted suicide, the priority was to save the patient’s life.

“They are looked after the same way as any other patient,” he said. “We first attend to the patient’s physical or medical problem.”

Police were on hospital grounds around the clock, Dr Tesfayohannes said, to collect information on injuries including self-harm.

“The victim rarely volunteers the information, so we turn to the relatives for help,” he said. “Once the patient has recovered, the psychological component is addressed.”

Financial and relationship problems were the main causes for suicide, Dr Tesfayohannes said.

Hospitals were required by law to report suicide attempts, but in cases where a patient posed no threat to others, doctors said they tried to provide help instead.

The line between doctor-patient confidentiality and the responsibility of a doctor to report an attempted suicide was the crux of the problem, Dr Abou Allaban said.

He said his centre had a treatment programme for those who had suicidal thoughts “where we provide them with daily consultations and the support they need”.

“People must not view suicide as a doomed destiny to end one’s life, but a cry for help,” he said.

 

Comments

Couldn't agree more with doctors. Besides its common sense. Picture this.. you know your family member attempted suicide and needs physical and psychological help bad but oh when you go seek it he/she will be slapped with a 5000dhs fine! And how's that going to make the suicidal person feel? Dang..if someone were to fine me, and I'm far from suicidal, with a 5000QRS fee, it'll prolly render me depressed now imagine then what it will do to the sick person? Commiting suicide is never a good thing. Being a Muslim country yes I see their thinking that it is illegal etc but you don't punish them...you cure them. Councel them! if they are religious talk to them of the possible punishments they'd face in the next world,tell them of God's mercy,etc. If they are not I'm sure there are still ways to rehabitilate them anyways..Just don't slam them with 5000dhs..please!
I agree Fatima, I've never understood the concept of making suicide illegal.  And this guy:"Yousef Al Bahar, of the Dubai law firm Al Bahar & Associates, said the legislation was not rigorous enough. “In many instances, the judges only give fines or a maximum prison sentence of one month, [although] the law only stipulates a maximum period of six months,” he said. “A more deterrent penalty, a compulsory jail term of a minimum period of six months, along with the fine, should instead be imposed.” Mr Al Bahar said the verdict should also include a compulsory rehabilitation programme to prevent future suicide attempts."Is he getting money for every person the commits suicide or something, cause he really seems to want people to kill themselves!
Yep..it makes no sense and from where I stand I see a suicidal person will be more determind now to get it right first shot itself or else face jail and a fine!
Don't they realize that people who attempt suicide do it not with the intention to live. So in the unfortunate circumstance (from the victims perspective) they survive, the authorities would rather humiliate them more by fining and jailing them?I know people who have attempted suicide and believe me when I say, the last thing they want is to be slapped with a sentence and then told they havta cough up money for their failed attempt :-(  
Why don't you say it loud and clear: some laws in Dubai and Qatar are mere crap!!
They need help, they need someone who understands.. They are depressed that's why they attempted to commit suicide in the first place. But 5000 fine & imprisonment? Do they really think this will heal what they feel inside? A big No,this will make things worst.They might even kill themselves inside the prison. This will only make them feel that they are all alone and helpless..
I just googled suicide laws, and while it appears that many countries (especially Catholic ones) used to have laws against suicide (and many now have laws against assisted suicide and pushing someone to suicide)  none still enforce it, with the exception of here, Singapore & India.
I can tell you for sure that law is not strictly enforced in India. 
I just looked again, and apprantely the law is under review in India after a court case in 2008.  So chances are it won't be around for much longer.
And it shouldn't... they need to be treated with dignity and respect too, maybe that is what they lacked in the first place.
Why don't you say it loud and clear: some laws in Dubai and Qatar are mere crap!!Sssshhhhh LP!  Flor might hear you!
You either get it right and succeed in your 1st attempt, or you're dead anyway with the embarrassment, fines and jail time :-(
Making it illegal MUST push people who do survive their first attempt to try again.
I think the goal is to scare people not to commit suicide if they fail but they can't fine you if you succeed... Hmmm, They don't know how to deal with it so they resort to what they do best which is providing strict law even if it's not applicable...
Suicide is a momentarily decision, You can only console and offer the ones who do not succeed the ones that do. Well nothing much you can do for them but to pray that Lord has mercy on their souls.
Does the suicide law stop people from seeking help ? From what I can see - No , it doesn't. There is help available for those who may be depressed or contemplating suicide.
A suicidal person is experiencing a very fragile emotional state and laws about a fine for such attempt is just gonna make them smile over it... may be
I would argue that it does Brit.  Many sucidal people may attempt suicide one or more times before "getting it right,"  or they may regret their decision after, say, taking a bottle of medication, and instead of going to the doctors they stay away for fear of legal reprisal. 
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