I just read a very good blog post over at Rationally Speaking on the moral aspects of suicide. I did not know that Camus thought (or at least said) that suicide was the one truly serious philosophical problem. Certainly many philosophers since antiquity have debated whether suicide is morally permissible or NOT morally permissible. In the blog post, Prof. Pigliucci points out that all Christian thinkers (I'm going to bite my tongue not to call that an oxymoron) thought that suicide is not permissible under any circumstance. I have always thought that suicide is such a taboo subject mostly because of religious reasons. I think that suicide is morally permissible in most cases, unless committing suicide would cause a very grave damage to loved ones, or unless the very act of killing yourself will cause bodily harm to others. I especially favor assisted suicide in cases of terminal illness when the person decides that it is no longer worth it to live life under those conditions, and I think the only people to reject that are those that are facing the issue with a religious mindset of the "sanctity" of life or something like that. I also think that people facing some insurmountable sadness or psychological stress should also be able to choose when enough is enough, and that nobody has the right to interfere with this. The caveat of course is people who are mentally ill, or under what appears like a never-ending psychological torture, that can really be helped to get out of the pit of despair and live a happy life. I'm thinking especially of the very young. For example, when one is a teenager, the brain is still not completely developed and one can lose perspective of the size and gravity of the issues and give in to despair. In those cases, of course once must intervene to prevent suicide.
Pigliucci then goes on to summarize Kant's position (the suicide is not morally permissible) and Hume's position (that suicide is morally permissible), and he also recommends a very good French-Canadian movie, Les Invasions Barbares (The Barbarian Invasions), on the subject of choosing when to die, and I would like to add to that recommendation the excellent Spanish movie with a superb Javier Bardem, "Mar Adentro" (The Sea Inside), both movies on the subject of assisted suicide.
What is your opinion of suicide in moral terms?
(The painting is The Death of Socrates by Giambettino Cignaroli, 1718 – 1770)
When I was younger me and my brothers use to talk about that to and being kids we treated it as kids do!
Hmmm... I'm not so sure about speaking to "morality" of suicide, per se.
Perhaps that is a direct result of being ""too close to the trees to see the forest", so to speak?
However, this IS a highly controversial and needlessly stigmatized subject which is most certainly near and dear to whatever may be left of my heart. That fact may be self-evident to anyone who really looks at my profile icon closely. (No, the photo really isn't me, but I believe it DOES get my point across.)
With that said, I offer a few factoids for your consideration ~~~
Depression and Suicide
Although most depressed people are not suicidal, two-thirds of those who die by suicide suffer from a depressive illness.
About 15 percent of the population will suffer from depression at some time during their life.
Thirty percent of all depressed inpatients attempt suicide.
At least 90 percent of people who kill themselves have a diagnosable and treatable psychiatric illnesses -- such as major depression, bipolar depression, or some other depressive illness, including:
PAST SUICIDE ATTEMPTS
Between 25 and 50 percent of people who kill themselves had previously attempted suicide. Those who have made suicide attempts are at higher risk for actually taking their own lives.
50 to 75 percent of all suicides give some type of warning of their intentions to a friend or family member.
Frequently Asked Questions
Some questions from email the Suicide Prevention Foundation has received. Many of these questions come from young teens struggling to understand the suicide attempts of friends, and trying to learn how they can help.
What percentage of college students who kill themselves are male? Why do you think more/ less boys than girls kill themselves?
Seventy-five to 80 percent are boys although more girls attempt suicide. Boys are more involved than girls in all forms of aggressive and violent behavior.
I've heard that suicides are more frequent around the holidays? Is this true, and if so, how much do they increase at that time?
Suicides are not more frequent during the holidays. It appears that the rates are the highest in April, and the summer months, June and July.
It is often said that a suicidal person goes through a period where he seeks for help from other people. Does this then mean that it could be ultimately the fault of other people (because they don't appear concerned enough) that one decides to kill him/herself?
Not a fair conclusion, although it could be a contributing factor in some cases particularly with elderly, terminally ill people.
What is the biggest cause of suicide among college students?
Ninety-five percent are suffering from mental illness, usually depression. If depressed, substance abuse, anxiety, impulsivity, rage, hopelessness and desperation increase the risk.
Apart from talking to a suicidal person and encouraging him/her to go for counseling, what else can we do to prevent this?
Going with someone to the counselor often helps. If the person won't listen to you, you may need to talk to someone who might influence him or her. Saving a life is more important than violating a confidence.
People often get uncomfortable when one discloses something as intimate and frightening as suicidal thoughts. What do you think can be done to reduce this stigma, either of suicidal people, or of depressive patients? Can people actually "change" their minds and accept someone who is suicidal?
As people recognize that suicidal behavior is the result of a medical condition not a sign of weakness or character defect it will change.
Thanks for all that information, it is very interesting.
For me one of the saddest things is when a teenager or young adult commits suicide, and many times it is related to bullying or some other horrible behavior, plus the indifference or lack of skills of the adults or the rest of society.
Yes indeed, I am probably more familiar with this disturbing topic than most folks, for whatever that's worth.
Most (but not all...) of my research is the result of the ongoing work I am doing to produce a video documentary concerning suicide prevention.
Oddly enough, roughly SIX TIMES as many Americans take their own lives (those are just the completed suicides that are documented) EVERY FREEKIN' YEAR as compared to the total number of victims of the 9/11 tragedy, but you never seem to hear about those statistics on mainstream media.
Ironically this project has proven to be an extraordinarily tough thing to get a grant for.
Heads in the sand, anybody?
Please let us know when the documentary is out, I would like to watch it. I'm not surprised that it's hard to get grants for anything related to suicide, because it is such a taboo subject.
I'm very much for assisted suicide. I just worry the laws won't have changed when I'm ready to go. Since there is no waver I could sign to clear the person that would be helping me, I'll have to make sure to do it before I'm not able to anymore.
The bad news is, Dr. Kervorkian had a pretty good idea, but overall he was a pretty lousy spokesperson.
The good news is, there are now a few states (such as Oregon) where the legislature has become more enlightened as to the complex reality of "assisted suicide", although that is really a rather awkward term for one "outside the bubble" to wrap their head around. Currently it seems that a more graceful way of labeling this socially valid and occasionally necessary concept is "death with dignity". See the link below for more info.