Are pro choice suicide forums culpable for individuals taking their own lives? Family of recent Newberry Township, Pennsylvania suicide victim, Shawn Shatto, seeks justice.
Shawn Shatto, 25, was found dead on May 22 in her family’s Newberry Township, York County home by her mother, who thought her daughter had been sleeping.
Instead, Jackie Bieber said, she found her daughter, ‘blue and cold to the touch,’ after Shawn followed ‘clear’ directions on the website as part of a three-day regimen that included over-the-counter medications to stop her from vomiting the poison that would ultimately end her life.
‘People on the post were telling Shawn what drugs to mix to kill herself and wishing her ‘good luck’ and ‘safe travels,” Bieber told via the York Daily Record.
‘Not one person said there is another way,’ Bieber reiterated. ‘It’s like a cult.’
Shawn’s family wants these so called pro-suicide websites shut down and people held responsible. They point to Suzy’s Law passed in 2013 in California, which criminalizes websites promoting suicide.
Screenshots of Shatto’s posts on the site show that she said she fell asleep and missed one of the steps, Bieber said, prompting another forum member to tell her not to worry.
Shatto also wrote down in her journal the list of substances she ingested from a recipe she found on the website, including exact dosages, her relatives said.
Shawn Shatto suicide death: Should webmasters bear the moral hazards of the actions of participants?
Bieber in Fadebook posts stressed going public with her own daughter’s suicide death as a way to warn other parents, ‘of the dangers and moral hazards of websites and forums listing the different ways that they can die by suicide and hopefully to get them shut down’.
‘I never ever knew that there was anything so accessible to anybody like this,’ Bieber said via fox43.com.
‘She had her issues,’ Shatto’s stepfather, Chip Bieber, admitted. ‘We were working on it. But this website never gave her a chance.’
Shatto’s parents saved screenshots of her posts and gave them to police. They now hope to raise awareness of what they describe as ‘evil’ websites that exist and to hold someone accountable in her death.
‘No one gave her an option to live or for help,’ Bieber told WPMT. ‘How can these people not be held liable?’
Shatto’s aunt, Elizabeth Hoffman, echoed that sentiment, saying other members of the forum were ‘cheering her on to the finish line of a suicide.’
Newberry Township Police Chief Steve Lutz told the York Daily Record that investigators were ‘looking into’ the website, along with claims made by Shatto’s family.
York County Coroner Pam Gay, meanwhile, characterized Shatto’s death as ‘very disturbing’ and questioned why others online didn’t do more to get Shatto the mental health help she so desperately needed.
‘How can people do that and have a conscience and go to bed?’ Gay said. ‘It’s just disturbing.’
Shawn Shatto suicide: Website admin issue disclaimer warning.
An administrator at the website has acknowledged Shatto’s death and confirmed that it deleted her final posts.
Shortly after her death, the site posted a disclaimer telling visitors that it serves as a forum to discuss mental illness and suicide from a ‘perspective of suicidal people,’ as well as its moral implications.
‘This is a pro-choice forum, not a pro-suicide forum,’ the site read. ‘We are not a pro-suicide forum, nor do we encourage anyone here to commit suicide. We do not provide the means or the tools to do so either.’
The disclaimer urged anyone feeling suicidal to call a suicide hotline, but also warned that some people may be involuntarily committed to a mental health facility if they do so.
And while the administrator said he doesn’t blame Shatto’s family for wanting someone at the site to be held culpable in her death, he dismissed the allegations that Shatto was encouraged to kill herself.
‘The demonization of this forum by family members and friends of the deceased member on Facebook has been sickening for me to watch,’ the post read. ‘To say that our community encourages people to commit suicide is simply not true. To say that this forum ‘murdered’ this member is false.’
Shatto’s funeral was held Wednesday in Harrisburg. Her family asked for contributions to be made in her memory to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, WHTM reports.