Move to decriminalise suicide long overdue, says Lam Thye

  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 01 Jan 2020

PETALING JAYA: The government's plan to amend the Penal Code to decriminalise suicide attempts is long overdue, says Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye (pic).

He said Malaysia was one of the remaining few countries that still criminalised suicide.

Lee, a member of the Mental Health Promotion Advisory Council, said the move should be supported by all because suicidal people were not criminals but victims suffering from mental problems.

"Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong was reported as saying that the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) is in the midst of finding an alternative mechanism suitable and effective to tackle mental health issues before a proposal to decriminalise suicide attempts can be tabled to the Cabinet.

"It was also reported that the amendments would be tabled at the Dewan Rakyat by the middle of 2020," he said in a statement on Wednesday (Jan 1).

"Several NGOs have been calling on the government to decriminalise suicide for some time.

"Among the provisions that need to be look into is Section 309 of the Penal Code which states that whoever attempts to commit suicide, and does any act towards the commission of such offence, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine or both," he added.

"It is understood that Malaysia’s law against suicide was adopted from India but the latter has decriminalised it when its lower house of parliament in March last year passed the Mental Healthcare Bill 2016, which does not make suicide a crime.

"The bill considers a suicide survivor to be under extreme stress when committing the act, and he shall not be punished for it," Lee said.

He added that those who attempted suicide must be given psychiatric treatment and rehabilitation.

"The government and insurance companies must also play their role by ensuring that medical insurance coverage could be extended to psychiatric disorders.

"Such coverage has been provided in Singapore for five types of mental illness, including depression. This initiative is important to help the patients bear the cost of treatment involving mental health," he said.

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