‘Death is not a tonic for society’s ills’
The author of a new book putting the liberal case against assisted suicide answers spiked readers’ questions on life, death and liberty.
I agree that legislative changes to permit assisted suicide speak to our dismal times, where human life is undervalued. But, given the situation as it is does prevent individuals making personal ‘end of life’ choices, wouldn’t it be better to argue for a complete decriminalisation of suicide, placing it firmly in the private domain outside statute and regulation? Duncan Hibbert, UK
Suicide is legal in the UK and in the US, too, except for certain statutes relating to insurance payments in particular states. It’s legal in nearly every country (India is an exception). So it is a private decision in that sense. However, I also think it is right to interfere with suicide attempts should an individual or an agent of the state come across one.
Though not legally obligated (in the UK or US), we are morally compelled to save a life if we are given the chance. Just as it is permissible to interfere physically with someone who is drowning, so it is with attempted suicides. We know, empirically, that, typically, 95 per cent of those who attempt suicide live for at least five years after the attempt. We also know that many attempted suicides are a cry for help and that there are many relatively foolproof ways that a determined suicide might succeed. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that, should we come across an attempted suicide, the person does not wish to succeed. The possible harm of delaying a determined suicide’s death by a few days, should they make a successful attempt later, is outweighed by the potential good done by saving a life. The man teetering on the bridge wants to be convinced, we may fairly assume, that life is worthwhile. Otherwise, why does he teeter? If he really wanted to die, there are many certain ways of accomplishing his goal swiftly and assuredly…
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