How Do You Define 'Assisted' In Assisted Suicide?05:38

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The Minnesota Supreme Court issued a decision yesterday on a very unusual assisted suicide case. The court ruled that a Minnesota law that makes illegal to "advise" or "encourage" people to take their own lives is too broad. But it said that to "assist" a suicide is still illegal.

The case involves a man who would troll online for people expressing suicidal thoughts. William Melchert-Dinkel would then pose as a sympathetic listener and encourage them to kill themselves. He told police he did it for, quote, the "thrill of the chase."

Melchert-Dinkel was convicted in 2011 of two counts of aiding suicide. But Minnesota's highest court says the language of the state law that bans people from encouraging or advising suicide is too broad — so broad that it violates the constitutional right to free speech.

Ethicist George Annas discusses the case with Here & Now's Sacha Pfeiffer.


  • George Annas, chair of the Department of Health Law, Bioethics & Human Rights at Boston University.

This segment aired on March 20, 2014.