Lam Thye: Repeal ‘archaic’ law criminalising attempted suicide

GEORGE TOWN: Section 309 of the Penal Code, which outlines the punishment for attempted suicide, should be repealed as it is “archaic”, says Mental Health Advisory Council member Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye (pic).

Section 309 states that offenders could be jailed up to one year, fined, or both.

He said research had shown that such criminalisation deterred people from seeking help and hindered the collection of data and the development of suicide prevention efforts.

“Attempting suicide should not be regarded as a crime. If a person is mentally unstable, he is not a criminal – he is unwell.”

He said the Health Ministry had previously raised the issue to the attention of the Attorney General but there had been no outcome yet.

It was reported last year that Malaysian Medics International, an international student-led medical organisation, also called for the decriminalisation of suicide.

Lawyer Cheah Eng Soon, who once represented a client charged with attempted suicide, said that taking these people to a police station, trying them in court and sending them to jail does not help them at all.

“Mandatory counselling and therapy are better options. They are depressed. We need to help them get out of it, not make it worse by punishing them or giving them a fine, which will add to their financial burden, ” he said.

Court action, he said, would put them under further stress.

Instead, he said, the court should insist on therapy.

In the first five months of this year, 468 people took their own lives in Malaysia. That works out to 23 suicides per week between January and May.

Most of them were below 40 years old, said Bukit Aman Criminal Investigation Department director Datuk Seri Abd Jalil Hassan.

In Penang, those with problems can email Befrienders Penang at; WhatsApp 011-5670 6261, call their hotline 04-291 0100 or Facebook messenger Befrienders Penang from 3pm to 12am.

For those in other states, they can reach out to: Mental Health Psychosocial Support Service (03-2935 9935 or 014-322 3392); Talian Kasih (15999 or WhatsApp 019-261 5999); Jakim’s Family, Social and Community care centre (WhatsApp 0111-959 8214); and Befrienders Kuala Lumpur (03-7627 2929 or check out for a full list of numbers and operating hours).

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