The Law Commission is recommending revising the restrictions in the Coroners Act 2006 regarding reporting suicide. The new restrictions would be limited to public comment by any person of the method of the suicide death, the place of the suicide where it is suggestive of the method and the fact that the death is a suicide. However, a death would be able to be described as “suspected suicide” where that is supported by the facts.
That seems a sensible way forward. It is farcical that very obvious suicides have euphemisms such as “no suspicious circumstances” attached to them as a code. Plus of course social media means that there is usually considerable discussion on such suicides (for better or worse) such as Charlotte Dawson’s. Of course as hers was in Australia it could be openly reported here.
The important thing is not giving details, which it is proposed remain prohibited unless released by a Coroner. A key finding is:
We are satisfied that there is widespread agreement amongst experts in this field and world authorities, such as the World Health Organisation, that media reporting can lead to copycat suicidal behaviour by vulnerable people.
Reporting the details of a suicide is protected by the right to freedom of expression in section 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. We have concluded that despite extensive evidence of a link between suicide reporting and copycat behaviour, it is only the evidence linking the reporting of the method of suicide to subsequent suicidal behaviour that is strong enough to justify a statutory restriction.
Again I agree.
Hopefully the Government will take up the recommendations at some stage.