Ethical, Legal, and Practical Issues in the Control and Regulation of Suicide Promotion and Assistance over the Internet

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Abstract

The promotion of suicide and description of suicide methods on the Internet have led to widespread concern that legal control is mandated. Apart from value concerns pertaining to attitudes about suicide, the guarantee of freedom of expression presents a serious challenge to the introduction of restrictive laws. Recent developments in Australia and Europe are presented, noting jurisdictional complexity as an obstacle to effective application. Finally, scientific data of an epidemiological nature are revealed to be insufficient to warrant making causal assertions about the Internet and its relation to suicidal acts, including those of vulnerable populations. Recommendations are made with respect to public education, suicide prevention, and future research.

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