For accurate data, deputy health minister says law criminalising suicide must go

Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye says Putrajaya needs to speed up the decriminalisation of suicide attempts so that better data and help can be provided for those seeking death. — Picture by Farhan Najib
Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye says Putrajaya needs to speed up the decriminalisation of suicide attempts so that better data and help can be provided for those seeking death. — Picture by Farhan Najib

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 23 ― The government needs to speed up the decriminalisation of suicide attempts so that better data and help can be provided for those seeking death, Dr Lee Boon Chye said in Parliament today.

The deputy health minister said the government is hoping to relaunch the National Suicide Registry (NSR) next year, but faced hurdles in developing it due to laws that make taking one’s own life a crime.

“Prior to the registry being developed, we need to decriminalise suicide. This must be the first step, because if we do not decriminalise sucide, suicide cases will be underreported, and the registry won't be accurate and incomplete,” he said in the Dewan Rakyat, in response to Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii.

The NSR was introduced in 2007 but stopped after just two years.

Dr Yii wanted to know the government’s efforts to restart the registry, noting that police data was not a sufficiently reliable source as some suicide cases were merely classified as sudden death.

Dr Lee believes that removal of Sections 306 and 309 of the Penal Code which punishes suicide attempts and those abetting in it, the government would be able to provide better treatment for those who want to kill themselves.

Several government agencies and mental health organisations are currently in talks to decriminalise suicide attempts.

They are the police, the Fire and Rescue Department, the Attorney General’s Chambers, the Malaysian Islamic Development Department, Befrienders, the Psychiatric Association of Malaysia.

The ministries involved in the discussion are: Health; Women, Family and Community Development; Education; Youth and Sports; and Communications and Multimedia.

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