Meaning of ‘suicide’

Carr v Attorney-General [2023] FCA 1500

Federal law makes it an offence to use a carriage service to assist someone to commit ‘suicide’5.  Victoria allows doctors to prescribe a ‘voluntary assisted dying substance’ to certain persons6.  It was argued that a doctor using a carriage service in this context commits no offence, as ‘suicide’ does not extend to taking one’s own life ‘in exercise of a legal right to do so’.  This was rejected by Abraham J.

Nothing indicated ‘suicide’ in the federal law took other than its ordinary meaning – ‘the intentional taking of one’s own life’7.  It followed, therefore, that the Victorian provisions were in ‘direct inconsistency’ with the federal law and invalid to that extent.

This principle is from Episode 104 of interpretation NOW!


5 s 474.29A of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth).

6 s 57(a) of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 (Vic).

7 cf IL [2017] HCA 27 [79], X [2013] NSWCA 320 [59].