Say I ask someone to shoot me non lethally. Not assisted suicide, Just shot. Is this legal? Isn't it like asking to be assaulted with a deadly weapon?

  • 48
    Are you asking whether it's legal to request to be shot, or to comply with the request (i.e. shoot the person who's asking)?
    – Flater
    Apr 29, 2020 at 12:38
  • 16
    It's always legal to ask. Apr 29, 2020 at 15:23
  • 7
    I can just imagine OP's arm covered in blood, many scattered beer bottles behind them, while the two of them panic over what to do
    – Quintec
    Apr 29, 2020 at 15:33
  • 30
    @RobertHarvey No. There are plenty of requests that could by themselves trigger criminal liability, e.g., solicitation, incitement, attempt.
    – Hasse1987
    Apr 29, 2020 at 21:03
  • 4
    @TCooper It's famous because he requested the firing squad.
    – shoover
    Apr 30, 2020 at 0:17

5 Answers 5


You may legally ask someone to shoot you, or do all sorts of other things to you. There are no laws against asking or various kinds of speech: laws restrict the doing. If you ask a person to shoot you and they do it, that person will probably be arrested for assault (or murder, depending on how it works out) – shooting a person is assault. A possible defense against an assault charge is consent, but that defense isn't freely available whenever a person says "I give my consent for you to assault me". You cannot consent to foreseeable serious bodily injury (more accurately, the law does not recognize such consent as valid consent). You can agree to be struck (in a boxing match) because such force is not serious bodily harm; and if unforeseeably serious bodily harm results, the consent defense is available. But if you ask a person to shoot you in the liver, they will be prosecuted for assault, because the resulting serious bodily harm is foreseeable.

  • 4
    This probably needs some stipulations. I am sure there are exceptions to "you cannot consent to foreseeable serious bodily injury." Kidney donation comes to mind. I am sure one can concoct some other donor or pregnancy scenarios where a person would effectively trade their well-being (or ability to survive) for the well-being of another person.
    – grovkin
    Apr 29, 2020 at 6:37
  • 49
    "If you ask a person to shoot you, that person will probably be arrested for assault" - isn't there something missing from this sentence? Just asking won't get the other person arrested without the act being actually carried out!
    – vsz
    Apr 29, 2020 at 10:39
  • 11
    @justasking111 In the case of magicians, it's probably safe to say that the performers are not actually being shot at. Things like the famous "bullet catch" trick are just that - tricks. As much hype as they build up about it, or however many demonstrations they do to prove that it's a "real" gun, it's in reality a controlled situation where the performer is in no actual danger. How it's done varies from one performer to the next (and is generally a closely guarded secret), but I very much doubt that any of them is actually putting their life on the line for it. Apr 29, 2020 at 13:38
  • 11
    "There are no laws against asking or various kinds of speech" — Eh? There are definitely (U.S.) laws against various kinds of speech, including asking/soliciting various things. "Shooting self" may well be an exception to the rule, but this answer that seemingly starts from the assumption that "all speech is always legal" can't possibly be correct. Apr 29, 2020 at 23:45
  • 5
    No laws against asking? If someone asked me to shoot their wife, I don't think freedom of speech would protect them from potentially being arrested on some kind of "conspiracy to commit murder" charge. Apr 30, 2020 at 8:58

If the act itself is illegal, I think request itself could be illegal under incitement laws. For example in Montana:

45-8-105. Criminal incitement.
(1) "Criminal incitement" means the advocacy of crime, malicious damage or injury to property, or violence.
(2) A person commits the offense of criminal incitement if the person purposely or
knowingly advocates the commission of a criminal offense and the advocacy is:
(a) directed to inciting or producing that imminent unlawful, criminal action; and
(b) likely to incite or produce that unlawful, criminal action.
(3) For purposes of this section, "imminent" means immediate in time, impending, or on the verge of happening.
(4) A person convicted of the offense of criminal incitement shall be imprisoned in the state prison for a term not to exceed 10 years.

  • This sounds great to me, an even better start than the accepted answer. This part of the answer hinges on whether the actual shooting (with consent) is considered a "crime, malicious damage or injury to property, or violence", albeit this it not what OP is strictly asking about. Do you know a bit in the law which would make this crystal clear?
    – AnoE
    Apr 30, 2020 at 11:51
  • 1
    What I love about U.S. law is there's always a state with some idiosyncratic law to illustrate a subtle point.
    – PatrickT
    May 1, 2020 at 7:05
  • 2
    @PatrickT I think criminal incitement is illegal in almost every state, if not every state. Montana's law was just used to provide an example of how they can be worded. Tennessee's offense is called "solicitation," but it's pretty similar, for example.
    – reirab
    May 1, 2020 at 14:21

I mean I highly doubt that there is a law specific enough to make such an action illegal, but you would definately be sent to a psychologist for an evaluation.

It is possible that your accomplice could be charged with a crime. The 18 U.S.C. § 351(e) aka clause regarding assault, defines it as:

"An attempt with force or violence to do a corporal injury to another; may consist of any act tending to such corporal injury, accompanied with such circumstances as denotes at the time an intention, coupled with present ability, of using actual violence against the person."

So this clearly shows that the friend commited assault. As I'm sure you know, this isn't the end of the legal road; there are still affirmative defenses. Here are some that could be used:

  • Assumption of Risk. The injured person clearly assumed the risks as they asked you to do that. But it is not that simple: this defense doesn't apply to felonies or suicides. Assault with a weapon is a felony.
  • Contributory Negligence: The person who was shot was negligent by telling someone to shoot them. However, this only applies in civil cases, not criminal.
  • Illegality: The plaintiff and defendant agreed to do this act that caused the injury. But again, only works in civil cases.
  • Release: The victim allowed the defendant to shoot them. However, this requires a written and signed contract, prior to the crime.
  • Waiver: This is basically the same as Release with added benifits that actions can imply consent. However, this only works in civil cases.
  • 3
    "you would defin[i]tely be sent to a psychologist for an evaluation" - my defendant's speech was figurative. He wasn't actually consenting to grievous bodily harm. He was merely stating the unenviability of his situation. Apr 29, 2020 at 11:37
  • "but you would definately be sent to a psychologist for an evaluation." - having seen a fair bit of shows or YouTube videos where adults hurt themselves or their friends in a very foreseeable nature, I'd not be so sure...
    – AnoE
    Apr 30, 2020 at 11:52
  • Lol true but if it goes to court probably @AnoE
    – Ankit
    Apr 30, 2020 at 15:10

I can foresee this being very jurisdiction-specific! I note that the question is tagged "Nevada". In the UK though, the shooter would likely be arrested for grievous bodily harm or actual bodily harm ("grievous" implies a risk of death), and the victim would likely be arrested for aiding and abetting the assault on themselves.

We have case law on this in the UK in the form of Operation Spanner, where gay S&M practioners were arrested after the police found copies of videos of some consensual S&M sessions. All participants were found guilty in court, including the "victims". This has reinforced the UK legal position that it is not possible legally to consent to anything which will cause more than trivial harm to yourself.

  • The underlying legal principle is "volenti non fit injuria" (to a willing person, no injury is done). Roughly, that means if someone knowingly consented to a hazardous or injurious course of events, and is injured, that doesn't make other parties to that into criminals. This is the basis for things like boxing being legal - the boxer consents to being punched by his opponent. But if the opponent pulls out a gun and shoots him, the boxer didn't consent to that, and so only in the latter case did the opponent commit a crime. The line between legal boxing and illegal Spanner isn't clear. May 2, 2020 at 0:43
  • Another relevant case in the UK is the Scots case Smart v Her Majesty's Advocate [1975 JC 30, 1975 SLT 65]. There Smart was charged with assaulting another man; his defence was that the other man had challenged him to a fight, and thus had consented to the punching he subsequently received. This defence failed (the sheriff said "if the act is criminal it cannot lose its criminal character because the victim consented"), and the conviction was upheld on appeal. May 2, 2020 at 0:47
  • Just to be clear, this answer is only covering the case where the person complies with the request and actually does shoot you. Not the case where they decline. May 2, 2020 at 2:10
  • @FindlayMcWalter All the participants in the Spanner case were 100% consenting to every part of what took place. Spanner explicitly supersedes "volenti non fit injuria" with the principle that it is legally impossible to consent to anything which causes more than "trivial harm" (that's the word used, by the way). The unclear legal distinction is not related to consent, it's related to what counts as "trivial".
    – Graham
    May 2, 2020 at 9:46

You can certainly always ask for it, and it's not against the law per se (in general).

Although, if a psychiatrist hears about it, you may get in trouble for alleged suicidal tendencies and whatnot psycho-crap they come up with, and you might end up detained, though not by court order. If your friend shoots you in the public, disturbance or breach of the peace might (possibly will!) apply. The same goes for endangerment. Think about where the bullet might go after going through you (or after missing you). What if it actually hits someone. Think about someone having a car crash because of that shooting (even if no one is being hit). Malicious mischief is a felony in many jurisdictions. Someone wants you to pay for their therapist afterwards because they had to watch the scene? Well, that's actually quite possible.
And no, you aren't out of the equation because you have been involved in the planning. You're in.

It's comparable to taking a Crocodile-Dundee-style walk on the chimney. If you own the apartments to which the windows belong, you are perfectly allowed to do that. You are perfectly allowed to stand on your rooftop, looking down the abyss for half an hour (for, I don't know, amusement, or to get used to vertigo), but that doesn't mean you won't get trouble anyway.
You are perfectly allowed to shout "Fire" in a theater, or "I have a bomb" in front of a public building, too. Only just, that doesn't mean there will be no serious consequences.

A cop walking down the street might very well shoot your friend in the back when seeing the weapon (and when hearing the shot). Or if he is a bad shooter, or if he mistakes the situation for something different (two armed robbers?), he might shoot both of you. The fact that asking to be shot isn't illegal doesn't mean that police won't show up in hospital once you go there to get treatment for your wound (in fact, that's guaranteed to happen because the hospital will call them).

Bottom line: Very bad idea.

Still, contrary to popular belief, you can indeed consent to to foreseeable bodily injury, and the law very much considers this valid. Some jurisdictions have extra wiggle clauses which are difficult to understand (if possible at all) and which leave a lot of leeway towards interpretation (such as "agreements that are against common morals are void", now ask 5 people of different age and ethnicity what is "common morals"). But in general, yes, such a thing is possible.

Example: Cosmetic (non-reconstructive) surgery is bodily harm which bears a considerable risk of complications (adhesions, contractions, to name a few) and is potentially lethal. Surgery involves pointy instruments and drugs, so in jurisdictions which have extra provisions ("aggravated", "dangerous", "griveous", "griveous using poison") for bodily harm, it fulfills the terms for being the most serious form possible. Cosmetic surgery has no "need" health-wise, in such a sense that you are going to die or suffer massive negative consequences (lose an arm or an eye) from not undergoing surgery.

Nevertheless, you can very much ask for it, and the surgeon can do it, legally, and even professionally. You sign a paper, and everybody is good to go.

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