In an article in the New York Times , conservative ideologue Ross Douthat presents a one-sided view of suicide. Although there may be a shred of truth in what he wrote, he passed up an opportunity to examine the issue in its full scope.
First, what is suicide? In one sense it is the exercise of what might be termed an “individual’s right to end one’s own life.” The loneliness factor, to which Mr. Douthat would like to attribute all suicides, has historically resulted in far more failed suicides than successful ones; a phenomenon that has been described as a bid for attention.
But is suicide always wrong? There are, of course, laws against suicide, but those laws were enacted to prevent injury to the suicidal actor’s surviving dependents and to innocent people who may be inadvertently killed or injured by his or her actions. But there are also numerous incidents in which suicides were not motivated by loneliness but by the desire to save lives, to protest injustice or simply to cease being a burden on society.
Think, for example, of the number of military heroes who sacrificed their own lives, sometimes by throwing themselves on top of grenades, to save their comrades in arms. And consider the Buddhist Monks in Vietnam who immolated themselves to protest injustice in that country, or more recently, of Mohamed Bouazizi, who, in a similar act, protested injustice in Tunisia and was posthumously credited with inspiring the Arab Spring.
Finally, there are those who feel, rightly or wrongly, that they have reached the end of their usefulness in life and do not wish to be a burden on society. We have hospice care for those who have been diagnosed as being very near the end of life, but perhaps we should consider euthanasia clinics where people who are thinking about suicide could go and find counseling away from that direction or, failing that, be safely and comfortably euthanized. Presented with those options, the rate of suicide attempts might actually decline.