So, Where's the Line?

>> Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Yesterday, I asked why suicide was considered a crime (or taboo for Relax Max who doesn't think it's illegal). I got a number of interesting viewpoints and comments, including Relax Max arguing that only attempted suicide is a crime but not suicide itself (since there's not we can do to punish a successful suicider), Soubriquet's excellent examples of socially acceptable suicide (we call it bravery) and mrsbitch's making a comparison between murder and suicide.

What I'd like to do is expand on mrsbitch's comments. She noted that murder was illegal and, as suicide was effectively self-murder, the same rules applied. Well, although I noted that, in my opinion, the problem with murder is that you're making life/death decisions for someone else without their input - which isn't the problem with suicide.

But, let's for argument sake, say that there is an inherent sanctity of life that no one has the right to snuff out, not even for oneself. So, if human life is absolutely sacrosanct, anything one does to shorten or endanger one's own life would also be criminal. To some extent we do this now by making narcotics and other serious and addictive drugs illegal. But, where do you draw the line? If we couldn't put our lives at risk, smoking should be absolutely forbidden, and extreme sports made illegal. Obesity would be a crime. One could not refuse treatment for oneself. Salt would be seriously curtailed.

And he's a kicker. What if you're pregnant and the pregnancy puts your life at risk? You'd no longer have a choice to try to carry the baby. Of course, that's a whole other post.


  • Tour New Zealand

    Very interesting! It makes you think....

  • The Mother

    Your points are well taken. Following the logical trail often leads to tangents that one hadn't originally planned.

    And, as I am now on a new low salt diet, I have to tell you I might actually choose the hypertension instead.

  • Jeff King

    Speeding is illegal yet you have the choice to do it. Everything that is illegal is a choice to follow it or not. Having it illegal is more just a deterrent not a fix all. And making it a crime allows survivors to be forced into getting the help they need. And that is why I think it should be illegal.

    And if you had to abort a pregnancy to save your own life I would not look down on that person for that reason...
    But to use abortion as a type of birth control then that is where I have an issue...

    I feel it is about life being special and above throwing it away. I would never idly sit by and do nothing if I knew a person was going to commit suicide... yet if you’re in pain from a life threatening disease and there is no cure I could plainly understand ending the suffering.
    Without a doubt I understand that point of view… I watched my best friend’s mom die a horrible death over a year period lying in a bed unable to move, talk or even eat. She suffered from cancer of the throat, it was a messy painful drawn out death and we talked about ending it several times…

  • flit

    Wow - getting into some pretty big issues here.

    I can see wanting to make it illegal for it's potential deterrent value - but really, anyone that is intent on success isn't going to care whether they are breaking the law, are they? Or who is going to be hurt, either.

    Suicide has always seemed to me - except in the case of terminal illness - an act of extreme selfishness.

  • Stephanie B

    The question is, Jeff, why does someone, who isn't the one suffering or living with the consequences, get to make the decision for someone else. I understand your stance on someone dying a terminal illness. But who is anyone to say to someone who is suffering emotionally, no, you have to stay alive to keep suffering because I don't think that's bad enough. I mean, who are we to say?

  • Stephanie B

    flit, I see what you're saying, but does our perception of the rationale make it so? Suicide, as soubriquet pointed out, can also be act of self-sacrifice like throwing oneself on a grenade. Without living in someone else's shoes, I'm just not comfortable (in my own mind) with deciding whether it was a selfish act or not. I know that's a perception (and could readily true most of the time, but it could be true just some of the time too or even a small number of times. Self pity, profound grief and depression can look pretty similar from the outside.

    Though, admittedly, I'm not a psychologist.

  • Stephanie B

    The Mother, there are days I ask myself what kind of life is worth certain sacrifices. Salt would be a tough one for me too.

  • Jeff King

    I have know many people that tried to kill themselves, but survived and found true happiness and went on to have 3 wonderful kids and be a very good friend to me.
    And I have know people that killed themselves, leaving their family and friend behind in more pain than they even thought possible {or maybe they would not have done it}

    I guess what I am trying to say, is that trying to stop some one means we care.

    So who am I to say you can't kill yourself.

    I am someone who cares about you, and will help where I can. That is who I am, life is hard but if we just sit by and turn our backs on people that need help. What does that say about us?

    I hope I never lose the desire to help people to find love and happiness in life, I will never agree with it and will do all I can to help others see the light.

    If they really want to go no one can stop them, most the time an attempt is a cry for help.
    The question is you listening?
    I am.

  • Stephanie B

    Jeff, I'm not trying to pick on you, but you make my point for me.

    I appreciate your intentions, your beliefs, your dedication to the good of others. But you can't take someone's decisions away without taking away their freedom. If your own experience with failed suicide victims says one thing, maybe it's that they never really intended to. Nor does it guarantee that, by forcefully stopping an attempt, you won't force someone else into experiencing more pain than they were willing to live with.

    I'm fully on board with the notion of helping others, but not against their will.

    I'll be honest, I don't know which of us is right, but I'm not personally arrogant enough to think I'm entitled to control another thinking adult's life, to take a life and death decision out of their hands. Making decisions for myself (where I have far more insight) is tricky enough without my second-guessing someone else's pain or motivations. Perhaps that kind of absolute assurity of what is right and wrong is justified for you, but it doesn't sit well with me.

    Nor do I agree that letting people decide their own fate is an indication of being uncaring; it is, in my opinion, a mark of respect.

  • Stephanie B

    I am not, by the way, suicidal myself, in case anyone was worried.

  • Doctor Faustroll

    So if you were in the final trimester and offed yourself, wouldn't that be two cases of late term abortion?

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