“Suicide shall cease to be a crime”: suicide and undetermined death trends 1970–2000 before and after the decriminalization of suicide in Ireland 1993



Suicide is criminalized in more than 100 countries around the world. A dearth of research exists into the effect of suicide legislation on suicide rates and available statistics are mixed.

Materials and methods

This study investigates 10,353 suicide deaths in Ireland that took place between 1970 and 2000. Irish 1970–2000 annual suicide data were obtained from the Central Statistics Office and modelled via a negative binomial regression approach. We examined the effect of suicide legislation on different age groups and on both sexes. We used Bonferroni correction for multiple modelling. Statistical analysis was performed using the R statistical package version 3.1.2. The coefficient for the effect of suicide act on overall suicide deaths was −9.094 (95 % confidence interval (CI) −34.086 to 15.899), statistically non-significant (p = 0.476). The coefficient for the effect suicide act on undetermined deaths was statistically significant (p < 0.001) and was estimated to be −644.4 (95 % CI −818.6 to −469.9).


The results of our study indicate that legalization of suicide is not associated with a significant increase in subsequent suicide deaths. However, undetermined death verdict rates have significantly dropped following legalization of suicide.

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Very special thanks to Ms. Pamela O’Connor, librarian in Letterkenny General Hospital, for immense help and support during the process of preparing the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Mugtaba Osman.

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No funding was received for this study.

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Dr Mugtaba Osman declares that he has no conflict of interest. Dr Andrew Parnell declares that he has no conflict of interest. Dr Clifford Haley declares that he has no conflict of interest.

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This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

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Osman, M., Parnell, A.C. & Haley, C. “Suicide shall cease to be a crime”: suicide and undetermined death trends 1970–2000 before and after the decriminalization of suicide in Ireland 1993. Ir J Med Sci 186, 201–205 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11845-016-1468-9

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  • Suicide
  • Criminal Law
  • Ethics
  • Legislation
  • Ireland