Should Assisting Someone with Suicide Be Considered Murder?

Should a person assisting another in committing suicide be held responsible for murder? While there are various responses to such an act, as well as a consideration of circumstances, a Utah man faces charges for this very act. We have all heard of highly publicized cases of physician assisted suicide. While this is only legal in a few states, there are stringent requirements and regulations for assisted suicide to be committed within legal parameters. Such cases generally revolve around someone who is terminally ill and thus wishes to die with dignity. What about a case where a person assists their friend in killing themselves simply because they wish to die?

This was exactly the circumstances when 19-year-old Provo, Utah resident, Tyerell Jo Przybycien allegedly assisted a teenager in her suicide, but in a grisly twist also filmed the act. He is currently facing a minimum sentence of five years with the possibly of facing up to life in prison. Prosecutors deemed the heinous act a “fascination with death.”

The victim Jchandra Brown was just 16 years old at the time of her suicide. Her remains were found by a turkey hunter. Recovered next to her body was a cellphone featuring the video recording Przybycien made, with shocking images of her first passing out and then dying. The recording gave evidence of his involvement merely talking to her as she jumped off a platform and began to inhale compressed air. He made no attempt to convince her to stop, call for help, or attempt to save her himself.

Przybycien gave himself up while detectives were investigating at the scene of the crime. He appeared distraught shedding many tears.

The perpetrators defense attorney fought the murder charges citing that the victim had chosen to commit suicide as she had left a note in her own handwriting. The Judge on the case, James Brady did not support this thought process and allowed the charges to proceed.

In the end, Przybycien took a plea deal and pled guilty to charges of child abuse homicide. He faced additional charges after law enforcement found images of child pornography on his cell- phone during the investigation. He also pled guilty to these charges in exchange for a lesser sentence. He will serve up to five years in the child pornography case, running concurrently with his other sentence for assisting his friend with her suicide. A parole board with largely be responsible for determining how much of these sentences Przybycien serves as Utah judges give indefinite sentences.

Cases such as these raise a variety of ethical questions. Where does personal responsibility come into play and when is it murder?