Register | Forgot Your Password? | Close
Register | Forgot Your Password? | Close

PHOENIX -- Arizona legislators are considering a bill that aims to make it easier to prosecute people who help someone commit suicide.

But whether the bill would actually do that depends on whom you ask.

Arizona Rep. Justin Pierce, R-Mesa, said his bill will make it easier for attorneys to prosecute people for manslaughter for assisting in suicide by more clearly defining what it means to "assist."

House Bill 2565 defines assisting in suicide as offering and providing the physical means used to commit suicide, such as a gun.

The proposal was prompted by a difficult prosecution stemming from a 2007 assisted suicide in Maricopa County.

"Frankly, I think it's immoral and wrong, and that's what is motivating me in this bill," Pierce said.

A House committee approved the bill 6-2 Thursday.

But an attorney for the Final Exit Network, a national right-to-die group whose members were involved in a 2007 death that led to a trial in Arizona, said the bill actually does the opposite of what it intends and would make prosecuting more difficult.

"I can't understand what they're thinking," Robert Rivas said. "It just doesn't add up."

Arizona prosecutors tried four Final Exit Network members in 2011 in the death of Jana Van Voorhis, who committed suicide in her Phoenix home on April 15, 2007. Maricopa County prosecutors said Voorhis was not terminally ill at the time of her death but suffered from mental-health issues and depression. Authorities initially thought Van Voorhis had died of natural causes, but an investigation revealed she had been in contact with Final Exit Network members online and they provided her instructions on how to commit suicide.

Four members were tried for manslaughter. Two pleaded guilty to lower charges, while another two others were acquitted.

Rebecca Baker, the legislative liaison for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office who worked with Pierce on his bill, said juries acquitted those two members because they did not clearly understand what it means to assist.

"The conclusion we ultimately came to was that we should just have the statute be more specific," she said.

But Rivas said the current statute is very clear, and the revised version narrows the ways in which prosecutors could prove someone committed manslaughter by assisting in a suicide.

"They're plainly wrong. They're not even looking at these words and understanding what they mean in plain English," Rivas said.

Associated Press,

share this story:
Attention KTAR.com Comment Users: We have recently changed our comments boards.
We would like you to be part of the conversation and The Voice of Arizona by logging in with your Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Disqus account. Existing KTAR (Arizona Sports) account members will need to create a Disqus account or use one of the aforementioned social media logins. Thank you.
comments powered by Disqus

World Class Arizona

  • Dignity Health

    World Class People. World Class Company. Excellent care, delivered with compassion, for all in need.
  • CopperPoint Mutual Insurance Company

    SCF Arizona has a new name. They are now CopperPoint Mutual Insurance Company.
  • Taylor Morrison

    World Class People. World Class Company. We are a national home builder committed to building homes inspired by you.
  • Go Daddy

    World Class People. World Class Company. Go Daddy is a Fortune 100 "Best Companies to Work For."
  • Avnet

    World Class People. World Class Company. Here's information on a Fortune 500 company from Arizona.

Voice For A Better Arizona

  • Working For Arizona

    The business and economics of Arizona at the start of 2014 and looking forward.
  • Arizonans In Need

    Putting a focus on charities and organizations who provide help and/or need your help to fulfill their missions.