Golden Gate University Law Review


Ann Grace McCoy


This article first traces the evolution of attitudes and subsequent laws regarding suicide and assisted suicide. Secondly, the criminal and civil liability of assisted suicide is assessed on the basis of California case law. Lastly, this paper will discuss the applicability of the defenses of the right of privacy and the right of autonomy to acts of suicide and assisted suicide. This discussion will focus on the right of a person with HIV disease to enlist the assistance of the medical profession to make his or her death as quick and as painless as possible, a practice which under the current law could be classified as murder. The paper will conclude with an assertion that the charges of murder, voluntary manslaughter, and aiding and abetting a rational suicide should not apply to true "mercy killing." Concomitantly, civil suits and other laws affecting the administration and disposition of the estate or insurance proceeds should likewise not apply to true "mercy killing."