Friday, March 11, 2005

Is suicide ever a viable option?

I am taking a Psychology 101 class online as part of the Humanities curriculum of my major (Internetworking Technology). The class was asked, by the professor, recently, "Are there any conditions under which suicide is a viable option? Discuss the conditions."

Most of my fellow students, responded with canned comments like “If I were terminally ill I would “pull the plug,” or want someone to do it for me. And “I wouldn’t want to burden my family with my suffering.”

Higher education, as the professor tells us, is to “expand our vision,” and “learn to be critical thinkers.” I answered:

First, I think it beneficial for the definition of suicide to be posted. It appears some have different meanings of the word than others, which can be confusing. According to Webster’s dictionary, suicide is defined as "The act or an instance of intentionally killing oneself. "I've read many instances of people explaining if they were terminally ill or in an incurable state they would pull the plug or want someone else to do so etc. If one were to specify in one's will the desire not to be supported by artificial means, I don't think this constitutes suicide by definition. It's basically stating don't prolong my death and let natural means run its course. A far cry, if you ask me, from deliberately destroying one's own life prematurely. Webster’s defines murder as: "The unlawful killing of one human by another, especially with premeditated malice." And, "To kill (another human) unlawfully.” There are such things as lawful killings (not murder) of other human beings. Such as in self-defense, preserving/protecting life from murder, defending another's life, etc. That being said, I believe under absolutely NO circumstances should someone commit suicide. No more than someone should murder another person, so should they not murder themselves. I have no right to unlawfully take the life (murder) of my neighbors, his neighbors, any other human being, or my own - i.e. murder. When we start to deem someone's life as "unfit for living," "burden on society," and so on, then we have just dehumanized these very people we are supposed to love and support. By the way, who is going to be the arbiter of such things? Where do we draw the line? Quadriplegics? Terminal cancer patients? AIDS patients? Do we kill everybody that doesn't meet with our standard of "worthy living?" Germany in 1942 thought so. I am surprised that there aren't more disabled persons that aren't outrageously offended by this whole “dignity of death” euthanasia movement (there are some voices out there though). I bet a lot of people wanted to put Christopher Reeves "out of his misery" too. In the name of compassion no less. How heart-warming. This line of reasoning flies in the face of thousands of quadriplegic people (or other disabled deemed a burden to society) that have remarkable lives and have contributed greatly to things such as science, medicine, and technology.
After many more subjective responses, the professor grew wary and took it up a notch, "Remember, we are here to learn to be critical thinkers. Lots of you are stating your personal opinion…other societies may have different points of view. What about suicide as a viable option when "you are terminally ill", "you are a suicide bomber defending your country - (Japan)", "a religious suicide bomber - (Israel)", "people who don't believe in God", or "you are on flight 93 during the 911 incident and you decide to give your life to save thousands by attacking the cockpit knowing it will probably kill you and everyone on the plane."

Does this sound like moral relativism to you? Is he equating suicide with an act to save life (911 hijacked scenario). Well, I wanted to see if that’s what he or other students believed. I responded to this post with:

Dr. White for bringing up some good discussion topics. One topic was "attacking the cockpit knowing it will probably kill you and everyone on the plane." Personally, I would do this very thing (I hope I would). But, I don't think this is suicide as I described earlier in my original post. I'm not SEEKING the destruction of my life - the terrorist is (or other outside influence). I am placed in a circumstance that may result in the end of my life that's not according to my desire. Like war, for example. I am not trying to kill myself when I climb the hill with one rifle, two cartridges facing an enemy outnumbering me 10 to 1. But my life may be ended by this course of action as a result of the circumstance.[Note: I'm really attempting to communicate accurately and mean no harm to anyone or offense to their opinion- past, present, & future]As for people that "don't believe in God," I suppose they will think whatever they like and call it whatever they wish in accordance with their own desires. It seems their view on suicide would arbitrary and relative to each person. In short, they can call whatever they like "right" or "wrong." They are the final judgment on the matter.
I would like to hear other perspectives on this. Specifically, how can one know what is right or wrong about suicide, if it were based on opinions of a few people? Why would it be right to kill one’s self because of pain or someone’s standard of worth-while living? Who is to make the decisions of life and death? Would this not be arbitrary?

Some may be convinced suicide is a viable option. But you couldn’t convince her:

http://dory.typepad.com/wittenberg_gate/2005/03/a_voice_to_spea.html

6 Comments:

At 3/12/2005 11:01 AM, Anonymous Fram said...

I saw an episode of ER the other week. It was about a lady who suffered a stroke. She could see, hear and understand everything the doctors were saying and doing. She couldn't communicate in any way though. I realize that this is only a TV show, but think if this was real life Like I hear it is very often. What if they just let her lay there and die? Can anyone even imagine being completely aware of whats going on around you and not being able to communicate? Knowing you are gonna lay there and die slowly, and probably painfully. Si anything more frightening than that? Think about what it feels like when you havent eaten in a while. Now imagine what it must feel like to those people who may be in the same boat as the woman on tv, and are aware of everything. What do you think it must feel like to then to have their feeding tube removed(Terry Schaivo), and to starve slowly until they finally die. With no way to let people kow they are in pain, or that they ARE aware and need help, and love, and rehab. What if you could hear your loved ones and doctors talking about you, and then deciding to go ahead and let you die????? Why wait to find out the hard way whether or not those kinds of people are aware of whats going on in thier "vegetative" or comatosed state? We tend to err on the safe side with our cars, our money, our house repairs, etc. Why not with human life then?? I wonder does anyone really ever think of these things when they decied that suicide, or assisted murder, or uh I mean assisted suicide is a viable option.
Ever see a movie where someone was burried alive? That kind of stuff scares me to my core. The very thought of it makes me nuts! Laying there in the dark, alone, knowing you cant get out, and you're gonna die slowly....EEEK! Now what if someone told you that your husband or wife, or even better...your child, was no longer "viable" so you should just go ahead and pull the plug. How much would you want to die yourself if you knew you just sentenced that person to the very same fate as someone getting burried alive...

 
At 3/18/2005 10:26 PM, Anonymous Christi said...

I have some mixed feelings on this topic only because I've seen the side of suffering. I actually took care of a lady who was on complete life support due to a car accident. She had been this way for 10 years and she was an only child and her mother did not want to let her go. I truly felt God called her home 10 years ago. I felt she was suffering on a daily basis and what right did we have to do this to her when a glorious heaven was awaiting her arrival. And no I did not have proof of physical suffering because she could not communicate in any way. But picture staying in one position all day for 10 years staring at nothing with a tube down your throat and a machine to help you with every body function. But being a mother I don't know how I could make such a decision that is why I am torn. So I don't look at taking someone off of life support as suicide. If it is an issue of suffering, they suffer either way.

 
At 3/19/2005 1:37 AM, Blogger Chris Mangum said...

Human suffering definitely should be remembered in such cases. A good point that I can certainly sympathize with.

Personally, I'd like my will to clearly state that I do not want to be supported by artificial means. If my body has failed, then let my spirit go.

Did you read the story I linked to? I'd be interested in what you though of it. It sounds like something you experienced.

Thanks for stoppin' by the blog and contributing your 2 cents.

 
At 3/20/2005 12:35 AM, Anonymous Christi said...

Yeah I just read the article and that is why I get so torn on the issue. Each case is so different. Like Terry Schaivo for instance I'm seeing this woman smiling, she responds in some way to people. I could not see letting this woman die. The suffering I saw this lady I'm talking about go through was on a totally different level. I think sometimes people feel like you have to take a position and stick with it but there are exceptions to just about everything. Yes the true definition of suicide is wrong, the exception being one, taking ones life to protect your country. Meaning OUR military in war. And two, being taking ones life to protect our family and children through an act of bravery. We are called by God to protect the weak. The suicide bombers are killing themselves to take as many lives as they can. So taking ones life to protect and taking your life solely on the purpose of mass murder is no comparison.

 
At 3/24/2005 11:26 AM, Blogger Jon said...

What I like is how the professor asks for the class's opinions and then turns around and slaps wrists for stating opinions. You cannot ask this question without opinions being involved. As this question relates to the above posts, I think it should be framed more in terms of personal and family rights.

To offer up an opinion of my own on the subject:

Suicide is the most selfish act a person can commit.

Period.

I mean bottom line, period.

Nothing more selfish you can do, even taking the life of another.

This perception of suicide expresses itself in Judeo-Christian beliefs, in that suicide is the ultimate act of Pride. Pride of course being the defiance of God. You cannot defy God more than by taking from him what he has given. A murderer can attempt restitution, even if he be damned. A man who commits suicide is simply no more.

Could you argue that someone terminally ill should be allowed to kill themselves to ease the suffering? Sure. But it's still selfish.

You can make an argument about self-sacrifice and selfishness, but I won't do that. I don't see self-sacrifice as suicide.

 
At 3/24/2005 12:39 PM, Blogger Chris Mangum said...

Yes, it is selfish. Good point.

 

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