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Govt finalising policies, bill to decriminalise attempted suicide

Publish date: Thu, 23 Mar 2023, 09:12 AM

The government is finalising several policies and bills in an effort to decriminalise attempted suicide, the Dewan Rakyat was told today.

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Law and Institutional Reforms) Ramkarpal Singh said a study was conducted by the Attorney-General's Chambers on attempted suicide cases, which is an offence under Section 309 of the Penal Code, and a proposal to repeal it.

He said the study took into account the approach in several countries to assess the justification and implications of its implementation in terms of legislation.

"Since December 2022, I have chaired 10 engagement sessions with stakeholders, including government agencies, MPs, state assembly members and the home ministry in Singapore to examine and resolve all arising legal matters in this endeavor.

"The next move is for a memorandum regarding this effort to be submitted to the Cabinet for approval and the bills presented in Parliament for debate and approval," he said during the question-and-answer session today.

He was responding to a question by Dr Kelvin Yii Lee Wuen (PH-Bandar Kuching) on the development of the government’s announcement that it would amend Section 309 of the Penal Code to decriminalise attempted suicide.

Ramkarpal Singh said he expected the bill on the matter to be tabled during this Parliament session.

Suicide attempts should be handled as a public health issue and not as a criminal offence since studies show that individuals suffering from depression are 20 times more at risk of suicidal behavior and death due to suicide, he said, adding that this would be in line with the International Classification of Diseases and the World Health Organization, which classifies suicide attempts as a disease and codes them as ICD 11 - MB23.R.

He said individuals who attempt suicide should be taken to hospital for further evaluation and given appropriate treatment and should not be convicted of a crime because they are mentally unstable.

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