Dr. Helen

Should This Woman Be Held Accountable for Her Boyfriend's Suicide?

A twisted girlfriend tells her boyfriend who is suicidal to kill himself:

Prosecutors are asking a judge to order a Massachusetts woman to begin serving her 15-month jail sentence for encouraging her suicidal boyfriend to kill himself.

….The judge found Carter caused (Conrad) Roy’s death when she instructed him over the phone to get back in his truck that was filling with toxic gas.

Some people say that it is a matter of personal responsibility, that the boyfriend made a bad decision in choosing whom to associate with:

Let me disagree with the prevailing wisdom here. If Conrad Roy were a happy, together person, it wouldn’t have mattered what his crazy, suicidal girlfriend told him to do. Alas, he was a messed up person in a difficult situation and he reached out to the worst possible human being that he could have for help.

That was his mistake and people make it all the time. The number of human beings that have gotten high, committed crimes or done outrageously stupid things with the encouragement of their friends is astronomical. Going down this pathway, whether other people are responsible for someone’s bad choices, is a horrible idea because if this idea becomes accepted, it won’t stop there.

In the end, you have to hold each person responsible for his own actions, not anyone else. What she did was cruel, horrible, and deserving of condemnation, but what she did shouldn’t be a crime. He made the terrible decision, not her.

But the judge in the court case frames it differently:

But the juvenile court judge focused his guilty verdict on the fact that Carter told Roy over the phone to get back in his truck when it was filling with carbon monoxide. The judge said Carter had a duty to call the police or Roy’s family, but instead listened on the phone as he died.

“After she convinced him to get back into the carbon monoxide filled truck, she did absolutely nothing to help him: she did not call for help or tell him to get out of the truck as she listened to him choke and die,” Supreme Judicial Court Justice Scott Kafker wrote in the court’s opinion affirming her conviction.

This is not as much about personal responsibility as it is about what may be a criminal act–it is more than encouraging someone to kill themself, it is actively telling him to stay in a truck filled with a chemical that would kill him.

Men are always being held accountable for anything that goes wrong and jailed for little more than hearsay. If we hold men accountable in this way, then women should be too. In a perfect world, neither would be held accountable for acts that are the decisions of others, but we don’t live in that world.

We live in a culture that blames men, often without evidence, and exonerates women, even with evidence. Maybe this case will serve as a warning to other women who use their sex to get off scot-free. It may not work.