A British Coroners Inquest into the death of 14-year-old Molly Russell concluded that social media content had contributed to her death.
Coroner Andrew Walker ruled that the harmful material had contributed to 14 year old Molly’s death in 2017. Rather than classify her death as suicide, he said she “died from an act of self-harm while suffering from depression and the negative effects of online content.” The internet had “affected her mental health in a negative way and contributed to her death in a more than minimal way”
Dyer reported why Walker came to these conclusions. He wrote:
The Coroner said, “Molly appeared a normal healthy girl who was flourishing at school, having settled well into secondary school life, and displayed an enthusiastic interest in the performing arts. However, Molly had become depressed, a common condition affecting children of this age. This had worsened into a depressive illness.”
He highlighted how the companies’ use of algorithms to send targeted content which had not been requested swamped Molly with depressing material. “Some of this content romanticised acts of self-harm by young people. Other content sought to isolate and discourage discussion with those who may have been able to help. In some cases the content was particularly graphic, tending to portray self-harm and suicide as an inevitable consequence of a condition that could not be recovered from.”
Ian Russell, the father of Molly, is lobbying to have the UK government pass the Online Safety Bill. A BBC article published on October 7 states:
“I think it’s really important, firstly, that something that is illegal in the offline world must be illegal and we must be better protected when it’s found on the online world.”
The Online Safety Bill would establish rules for how internet platforms control harmful content.
I am convinced that the reporting of euthanasia or assisted suicide deaths also leads to increased suicide rates.
The suicide rate in Oregon, where assisted suicide has been legal for more than 20 years, is higher than the national average at 18.3 suicide deaths per 100,000 people. The suicide rate among seniors 85 and older in Oregon is significantly higher than other age groups at 42.6 per 100,000 people in 2019.
Similar to Oregon, the Washington state data, where assisted suicide has been legal since 1999, also shows a much higher suicide rate among seniors 85 and older.
A study by bioethicist David Jones compared the suicide rates of European nations that have legalized euthanasia or assisted suicide to European nations that have not legalized assisted death. The study found that – suicide rates rise after euthanasia or assisted suicide is legalized.
Jones found that every country that has legalized euthanasia or assisted suicide have a higher suicide reate relative to European nations that had not legalized euthanasia or assisted suicide.
Professor Theo Boer, who is a former euthanasia case reviewer in the Netherlands published an article titled: Be careful what you wish for when you legalize active killing. Boer explains:
the percentage of euthanasia of the total mortality went from 1.6% in 2007 to 4.2% in 2019, the suicide numbers went also up: from 8.3 suicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 2007 to 10.5 in 2019, a 15% rise. If we would include the deaths through assisted suicide in patients considered to be at risk of committing suicide (psychiatric patients, people with chronic illnesses, dementia patients, elderly and lonely people), the total increase in self chosen deaths over the past decade would be closer to 50% than to 15%. Meanwhile in Germany, very similar to the Netherlands in terms of religion, economy and population, the suicide rates went down by 10%.
The difficulty with suicide data is that many factors affect the suicide rate, nonetheless, there have been several studies that have found that legalizing assisted suicide or euthanasia leads to higher suicide rates in general.
I am convinced that one reasons that suicide rates increase with the legalization of euthanasia or assisted suicide has to do with the media reporting of these deaths. The media often publish supportive articles of deaths by assisted suicide or euthanasia. Some of these articles refer to the person who died as courageous.
Articles that are supportive of assisted suicide or euthanasia deaths normalize these deaths but they also normalize suicide in general. If it is courageous to die by assisted suicide then it must be courageous to die by suicide.
Header image: Adem Adem AY via unsplash.com