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Why 9NEWS uses the words assisted ‘suicide’

by Brandon Rittiman, KUSA, 19 August 2016

Colorado will be voting in November on an assisted suicide proposal. Local television station KUSA 9 News explains why they will be using the term “assisted suicide” in their coverage of the issue.

Supporters of that law have asked 9NEWS not to call it assisted “suicide.” They’d rather we call it “medical aid in dying.”

What follows is our explanation of why we are not going to grant that request:

First off, 9NEWS has no position on this ballot question. Nor do we take the issue lightly.

We have a duty to tell you about it in simple, direct language. That’s why we’re not going to stop using the word “suicide.”

Supporters of the measure argue the word “suicide” is too friendly to the opposition because it may make you think of someone who ends their life for no good reason.

In contrast, the proposed law does require a reason: you’d need to be diagnosed with a terminal illness to get a life-ending prescription.

But in plain English, that’s still “suicide.”

Merriam-Webster defines suicide as:

“The act or an instance of taking one’s own life voluntarily and intentionally especially by a person of years of discretion and of sound mind.”

The Oxford Dictionary puts it more simply:

“The action of killing oneself intentionally”

Dictionary.com goes with:

“The intentional taking of one’s own life.”

All three definitions have something in common: they don’t depend in any way on the reason a person chooses to end their life, just that they do so on purpose.

Supporters of this proposal want to change the dictionary definition of suicide. They might succeed one day.

Changes in the law can end up changing our language.

If you don’t believe us, find an old dictionary and look up the word “marriage.”

But it’s not our job in the news business to change the dictionary.

It’s our job to use plain language that’s current and accurate– and that’s what we’ll keep doing.


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