HARRISBURG ¬– Rep. Dawn Keefer’s (R-Dillsburg) Shawn’s Law (House Bill 184), to hold accountable people who instruct, cause or solicit another person to take his or her own life, is going to the governor for his signature after being approved by the House on concurrence today.
“Shawn’s Law addresses a very serious issue that is claiming the lives of our most vulnerable and impressionable people,” Keefer said. “No one who is struggling with depression and other mental health issues should be given step-by-step instructions to end his or her own life and be encouraged to do so.”
Keefer’s legislation is named for Shawn Shatto, who took her own life in her parent’s Newberry Township home after she received a step-by-step guide on how to die by suicide from an online chat forum. She was provided the 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.
House Bill 184
calls for sentences for a person who encourages another person who is under the age of 18 or has an intellectual disability to die by suicide to 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