“Clients and Suicide: The Lawyer’s Dilemma”


If their clients admit to having suicidal feelings or show evidence of serious psychological problems, how do lawyers’ legal responsibilities to their clients change in different circumstances? Attorney and former legal librarian Ken Strutin provides a collection of summaries and links to ethics opinions, legal decisions, law reviews, bibliographies and other resources that explore various kinds of situations like these under US law.

“Imagine representing Socrates and then learning that he was planning to take hemlock, what should counsel have done?” asks Strutin. “It is a question that would have perplexed the wisest of his time and ours. Add twenty-four centuries and the issues are all the more complicated.”

These complications, he writes, “cross a range of legal, moral and medical contexts: professional responsibility, client confidentiality, effective assistance of counsel, legal malpractice, criminal liability, and end of life issues.”

Clients and Suicide: The Lawyer’s Dilemma
(LLRX.com, October 11, 2014)


  1. Just to clarify…if someone tells his lawyer that he just murdered someone, that lawyer is ethically obligated to maintain his confidentiality and defend him, despite knowing that he is guilty, but if a completely innocent person makes a comment that implies he may want to harm himself, it’s an ethical dilemma as to whether or not to report that client????

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  2. How about leaving the decision about one’s life and death to the only person qualified to make such decisions – that is him/herself? The atrocities which are being committed every day in the name of protecting people from themselves which in any way don’t prevent suicide anyway.

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