Advancing a Free Society

Suicide and its Assistance

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Let me state at the outset that I believe a free society should allow the right to end one’s life through suicide. A suicide decision is not made lightly since the great majority of people cling to life even under the most dreadful circumstances. Only people who feel quite hopeless about their future seriously contemplate suicide.

Rational forward–looking persons with good information about their future circumstances would commit suicide only when convinced that they would be worse off by continuing to live. David Hume said (in his Essays on Suicide and the Immortality of the Soul) “That suicide may often be consistent with interest and with our duty to ourselves no one can question, who allows that age, sickness, or misfortune may render life a burden, and make it worse than annihilation.” Schopenhauer was also confident about the rationality of suicide, “It will generally be found that, as soon as the terrors of life outweigh the terrors of death, a man will put an end to his life” (Parerga and Paralipomena).

Although I support the right to suicide, ideally it is best to have a cooling off period to make sure that a suicide is not attempted in a moment of great agitation that will pass before long. For example, a teenage boy may hang himself because he is bluntly rejected by his girl friend. If his hanging were prevented, he would likely have realized in a few months that he will be attracted to other girls as much or more than to the one who rejected him. He would be ashamed that he was so upset by her rejection.

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