May. 20, 2020

HARRISBURG – The House today advanced legislation by Rep. Dawn Keefer (R-Dillsburg) to increase criminal penalties for people convicted of aiding or encouraging another person to commit suicide.

The legislation now goes to the Senate for approval. In response to the House vote, Keefer issued the following statement:

“The action by the House today sends a strong message that aiding or encouraging someone to take his or her own life will not be tolerated in Pennsylvania. This is nothing more than murder by proxy and, in addition to being a shameful and cowardly act, should carry a heavy penalty for those who commit this crime.

“There have been numerous instances across the country of a person directing someone to commit suicide. One such case happened in York County. Shawn Shatto, for whom Shawn’s Law is named,took her own life in her parent’s Newberry Township home after she received a step-by-step guide on how to commit suicide from an online chat forum. She was providedthe instructions to make the poison to take her own life. Shawn did so and then contacted the forum members saying she was scared to follow through with ending her life. At least one person on the forum told her that suicide was the best route and wished Shawn well on her journey instead of encouraging her to seek help.

“My heart breaks for Shawn and her family. In Shawn’s hour of need, she was directed to an outcome from which there is no going back.”

Under Keefer’s House Bill 1827, sentences for a person who encourages another person who is under the age of 18 or has an intellectual disability to commit suicide would be increased. Under the law, intellectual disability is defined as someone, regardless of age, who has significantly below average intellectual functioning and has significant limitations in two of the following areas: communication, self-care, home living, social and interpersonal skills, use of community resources, self-direction, functional academic skills, work, health or safety.

Assistance to prevent suicide can be found by calling The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) 24-hours a day, seven days a week. The lifeline provides free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources and best practices for professionals.

Representative Dawn Keefer
92nd Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Greg Gross