Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Suzy's Law: Parents Turn Grief Into Action

You've read in this blog last week about Kendra's Law and Laura's Law. Today, I'm writing to raise awareness of a like-titled piece of legislation, Suzy's Law.

Photo by Georgios Wollbrecht
HR 940, as it's officially known, proscribes using interstate commerce to publish suicide promotionals, such as how to kill yourself quickly and effectively, how to write a powerful suicide note, how to get the material means for suicide and how to delay others finding out you're dead.

Who Was Suzy Gonzales?
A resident of Red Bluff, California, a quaint town in the far reaches of Northern California, Suzanne Gonzales was a bright and fun-loving 19-year-old girl with a stellar future ahead of her. She was a national Hispanic scholar finalist and had a full scholarship to Florida State University. To quote the Suzy's Law web site,
"She loved to set her own style and was not afraid to march to her own beat. She was known as the girl wearing glasses with no lenses and hand-painted colorful shoes, and riding a red scooter carrying the stuffed two-headed cat she made herself. She loved polka-dot dresses and ska music, and she was a joy and bright light to be around."
That bright light was about to be tragically extinguished. Suzy became depressed while attending Florida State. She tried to talk to her boyfriend about the increasing thoughts of suicide she experienced, but he told her she needed help.

So Suzy turned to the Internet and found multiple resources encouraging her to kill herself and providing her with the know-how to get the job done. They taught her how to pose as a jeweler to buy potassium cyanide. They gave her instructions on how to send time-delayed emails that would go out after her death. They taught her how to lie to her psychiatrist so she wouldn't get hospitalized. On and on it went.

Finally, on March 23, 2003, Suzy checked into a Florida motel and ingested a lethal dose of potassium cyanide.

Parents Turn Grief Into Action
Mike and Mary Gonzales were devastated by their daughter's suicide, but decided to take action. Suzy's Law was initially introduced in February 2007 by Rep. Wally Herger.

Under the Suzanne Gonzales Suicide Prevention Act of 2007, an individual who uses the Internet or other interstate commerce to teach a suicidal person how to commit suicide or provides them the resources to do it would be guilty of a crime punishable by fines and up to five years in prison. If the recipient actuall suicides, the penalty goes from five years to life in prison.

The bill was referred to the Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security. It has been in limbo ever since.

So Mike and Mary are going to Washington, DC, this week to bring Suzy's Law out into the daylight for support and, hopefully, action. If you want to get involved, you can read the full text of the law, urge your Congressperson to co-sponsor the bill, and tell your friends.

Here's wishing you the best, Mike and Mary!
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