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Bizarre California obituary story

Matt Schudel

The Sacramento Bee is reporting that a man in northern California delivered his own obituary -- actually, in the trade we would call this a death notice -- to the local newspaper, then committed suicide the next day. The package he delivered to the paper contained exact payment for the death notice.

The story has a number of ethical implications. For instance, if a newspaper knows in advance of someone's plan to commit suicide, what should it do? Was the newspaper right to publish the death notice after the person's suicide?

Let us know what you think.

By Matt Schudel  |  April 15, 2010; 9:31 PM ET
Categories:  Matt Schudel  
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I'm rather surprised that this is even in question. The simple answer, is yes, of course the newspaper must report that to the police. There is no anonymous source here. Someone is reporting a crime.

And then publishing the obituary would not even be in question.

Posted by: Stormy1 | April 15, 2010 10:42 PM | Report abuse

Report it to the police? Of course, but in this case that wasn't possible. (The police aren't omnipotent either: all the advance notice in the world won't help if the person in question can't be found.)

Publish the death notice, if the person does succeed in committing suicide? Absolutely without question. Anyone who wishes to have editorial content over his own death notice should be allowed to do so, as long as it meets the newspaper's standards (for obscenities, legal, etc.).

Posted by: Blurgle | April 15, 2010 11:06 PM | Report abuse

Your story above implies that it was the Sacramento Bee which was responsible, when it was another newspaper entirely.

Posted by: rah1962 | April 16, 2010 8:26 PM | Report abuse

The local paper involved was not Sacramento Bee, which I suppose could have been inferred from the posting. The paper was the Placerville Mountain Democrat.

Posted by: schudelm | April 17, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

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