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Keywords:

  • suicide;
  • assisted suicide;
  • crime;
  • euthanasia;
  • coroner

Suicide was a crime in England and Wales until 1961. This paper compares the English legal treatment of suicide with that in other Western countries. The delayed English decriminalization of suicide is a likely result of the nature of English common law, rather than a reflection of actual public opinion and medico-legal practice. This subject remains of interest. Coronership, the cornerstone of English suicide certification, developed out of anti-suicide legislation, and important biases result from this. The Church of England may still deny ordinary burial rites to certain suicide victims. Assisted suicide, to be distinguished from euthanasia and suicide pacts, became a separate offence in 1961. Legislative reform regarding these issues, similarly to that regarding suicide, is likely to lag behind the development of public opinion and medical practice.