Suicide has serious consequences. My opinion on suicide (outside of death with dignity for terminal patients) certainly isn’t popular. In fact, I’ve been told on more than one occasion that my opinion is “selfish” and “hateful.”
When someone takes their own life, they do it from a set of on-going thoughts in their head that range from their brain screaming how worthless they are to how they’re a burden to how they’ll never accomplish anything to how their family and friends don’t really need them and would be better off without them to how their pain will be over. I am fully empathetic with what that’s like. I was there in the past. Those thoughts leave no room for the truth.
The truth, which many find hard to face, let alone accept, is that suicide doesn’t end pain. It transfers it over those left behind. It transfer it over to parents, children, siblings, significant others, and friends. It creates a lifelong pattern of grief for many who were left behind. It causes them to question themselves. At one point, that truth kept me alive. That was not a legacy I wanted to leave. I did not want my children, family, or friends to remember me in that way. I suspect most people do not want to be remembered in such a fashion…and yet, that is, indeed, how they are remembered.
There are times, though, where other people purposefully contribute to another person’s decision to end their existence. And that is a heinous, heinous act.
Reckless Words, Devastating Results
At 17 years old, Michelle Carter was in a relationship with an 18 year old named Conrad Roy. Conrad was a troubled young man. Think back to when you were 18. It’s a rough time. It is a time when most of us struggle to begin to figure out who we are, what we want out of life, and how we can get it. We’re stuck between the teen years of I-know-everything-and-no-one-can-tell-me-a-goddamn-thing and the realization that we don’t know nearly as much about life, the world, and others as we’d like to think.
Conrad committed suicide in 2014 by poisoning himself with carbon monoxide…Michelle encouraged his actions. In a text exchange, Conrad told her that he had second thoughts about killing himself. She told him to “get back in” his truck and to stop “pushing it off.” Conrad was concerned for his family. Michelle’s response was that his family would get over it and that she believed they would “understand and accept” it.
In 2017, Michelle was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and referred to Conrad as a “vulnerable person.” The Court believed that she had convinced Conrad to kill himself despite the fact that he had second thoughts.
Involuntary manslaughter involves reckless or wanton conduct that causes the death of another person. Michelle’s reckless words caused a permanent and devastating impact on the Roy family.
Freedom of Speech Doesn’t Mean Freedom from Consequences
Michelle Carter’s main defense was freedom of speech. The Court, including the Appeals Court, disagreed. The Appeals Court ruled that “We are not therefore punishing words alone, as the defendant claimed, but reckless or wanton words causing death.”
Although Michelle was allowed to remain free during her appeal, she will now serve between 15 months to 2.5 years. Conrad’s mother filed a $4.2 million wrongful death lawsuit against Michelle. Money doesn’t bring back a loved one; it’s also likely that Mother Roy would ever see that sort of money. However, it will provide Mother Roy with a bit of vindication if her lawsuit is victorious. And it would also be something that would continue to follow Michelle around for the rest of her life.