Friday, December 12, 2008

Some thoughts on suicide

I've been doing a lot of thinking of late about the entire ethical question of suicide, and it boils down to a few key points, which I will summarize here before opening the floor to comments. There seems to be a very limited scope by way of arguments put forward against suicide, and it makes me wonder how much people actually look at the topic from a neutral point of view. We are ALL going to die sometime - death is the only certainty in life. Why is it regarded as an aberration to have any decision on how and when we die? Here are the main arguments I've come up against, feel free to add others by way of comment.

  1. Suicide is the most selfish act one can perform. I find it interesting that the only reason people can give for this is "what about the ones left behind?". Well, what about them? Close friends or family may mourn for a time, but again, we're all going to die. We might die by violent means at the hands of another, we might try and cross the road and get hit by a bus whose driver wasn't paying attention. Even if we don't, one day we'll die because our bodies simply shut down. Why is it a particularly selfish act to say "The circumstances no longer give me quality of life. I therefore, with love and respect for my friends and family, wish them all the best and withdraw from this life before I become a burden on them." I still fail to see how this can be selfish, other than to those who simply want the person to stay alive because they, personally, don't want to miss that person - in which case I'm bound to ask, who is the selfish one in this scenario?
  2. Suicide is a sin, forbidden by God. It depends on your beliefs. Yes, if you're a Christian, the Bible says that suicide is the ultimate "playing God" scenario, which is one of the worst sins you can execute - but what if you're not Christian. I, for example, am Wiccan. Our beliefs don't hold that there's a God who judges everyone for their acts, or who will be waiting to don wig and gavel the second someone departs the mortal coil. To a Wiccan, death is part of the cycle of things - death is neither friend nor enemy, it just is. It's certainly not a sin. In a world where there is supposed to be religious freedom, why is it immediately assumed that just because the God of Christians says it's a sin to commit suicide, this automatically makes it a sin for everyone else?
  3. Suicide is a mental illness. Don't commit suicide, get councelling. This is another common thing that I hear, and again, I don't see that a very broad label can be applied. In some cases, yes, some people who have a mental illness or problem will contemplate suicide. I happen to think that genuine depression is not a mental illness. Even the happiest of people can be driven into depression by a set of circumstances relevant to their condition or situation, That does not automatically make those people mentally ill. Councelling can only help if there is a solution. If a quite sane person, driven by circumstances has assessed every part of their situation and found that there is no viable outcome, just as if a vet tries every solution on an animal and it still remains ill - councelling isn't going to help. Councelling has its place, without a doubt, and nobody should die alone or make the decision alone. But at the end of the day, when one passes the age of majority and becomes lawfully an adult, one takes responsibility for ones own destiny, ones own actions. Ultimately I believe that gives one the right to choose, in full awareness and acceptance of the consequences and the responsibilities, when they leave this life.
The circumstances of the suicidal person should always be taken into consideration when debating how "right" or "wrong" such a thing is. This is an area where blanket rules can't and won't work. I'm interested on peoples feedback on this, so the floors open. What's your opinion on suicide?


Black Wings said...

I will say that, having never attempted suicide before, but having contemplated it and discussed it with friends, I have to disagree with all of the above arguments. I agree on the selfishness, and will say that I am saddened when somebody I know and love dies. As to the second argument, about the ultimate sin, wasn't being born the ultimate sin anyway? So how can there be two? But, seriously, nobody, not even a so called God, has any right to judge any of us bases on what we do. I'm not exactly sure how to address the third one, but I will say that anybody who uses that argument needs to take off their blindfold. Each and every one of us is our own person, and we all have the right to make our own decisions, whether it is "right" or not in the eyes of society, for society is just a bunch of selfish, ignorant people, with a couple smart ones intermixed in there. Guess which ones go first? The smart ones- they figure out that this suffering ain't worth it in the first place. So, as much as I miss the friends I've lost to suicide, I see them no less or no more worse than anybody else I've lost to death. In the end, death will claim us all, and we might get lucky enough to see them again. In which case I will embrace them again with all my heart and be with them forever. Athiest or not, I've still got my dreams on that one. Our choices are our choices though. We all choose our own, and my only advice is to pick the one that you think is best.

-Black Wings

Wildcat said...

Thank you for your thoughts on the matter, Black Wings.