There is a maxim – that the shortest suicide notes are the most sincere. This is perhaps a truer truth than many of us might choose to recognize, and it also leaves us with the lingering question of why the person chose to do as they did.
It is a question I find endlessly fascinating.
I have much experience with suicides, having tried it a few times myself (and “succeeded” by Jesuit standards once), having a mother that tries it with increased regularity, and having friends who have succeeded in aiding themselves in departing from this life.
Suicide traditionally is placed in one of three categories – each with subcategories and quirks I shall come to in time, and the category one ascribes to tells us much of one’s opinion of suicide.
One either considers suicide a choice, a sin, or a crime or in some cases a mixture of any of the above.
I myself, as a suicide and a former student and adherent of Jesuit Catholicism, am in the rather awkward position of feeling that my decision to take my own life, was my own choice and a valid alternative to the life I was leading at the time, but also a major sin and one of which I am guilty.
I was after all dead for three odd minutes and am therefore numbered among the damned. Or at least I would be if I were still a Catholic. I am not a practitioner at this point in my life, but as the old joke goes there are no former Catholics just recovering ones.
Of course in my current religion, Taoism, suicide is also a sin, and one punished by 10,000 bad reincarnations, but one has to be really and truly dead, a niche I do not fit in for obvious reasons.
There are perhaps too many nuances upon what the definition of a successful suicide is and too many nuances in success and in the appurtenant punishments as dictated in the annals of theology for us to deal with succinctly here and it would perhaps be best if I were to move on to suicide as a crime.
But before I start here, I wish to note I am NOT talking about suicide bombers or others who feel they are martyring themselves for a cause and that that justifies harming others.
I am talking about solo psychopathological suicides.
I have always found it an interesting paradox of our society that despite overpopulation, disease, prison overcrowding, food and other societal survival issues, malcontents, failures, and those who otherwise take up time, money, and space are not simply allowed to take the easy way out. Why this taboo on subtraction in a society plagued by too many additions?
Especially as these malcontents are in a large part suffering from genetic disorders or “social diseases” that they simply recontribute to the cultural environment or mass gene pool with each interaction or genetic progeny.
A suicidal person has suicidal children or at the very least seriously neurotic ones, and it does not matter if this is nature, nurture, or more probably both. Anyone who has ever lived with someone who is suicidal will testify to how horrible their own life tends to become.
So why this legally enforced taboo? Am I the only one who sees the irony of sending a man with a badge and more importantly a gun to go and detain someone who no longer wishes to be a part of society, life, or the circle of authority?
Then you make that person a burden on society by using tax money, health care premiums, and public assets that could be otherwise utilized (buildings, doctors, psychologists, medical supplies and equipment) to force that person to remain alive – and in most cases, noncontributing dependents upon the very group of people they a) do not fit in with, b) take much needed resources away from, and c) do not wish to live within?
How does it make sense to use blood that could save a hemophiliac or keep the gastrointestional cancer patient alive and waste it on the chronically depressive individual who just intentionally opened up their veins to let all their blood out because the did not want to be alive?
There is little evidence that a suicidal individual will ever become a contributing, productive member of society, and actually quite a good deal to suggest that they will not. Does it make sense to keep these individuals around at the cost of detrementation to humanity as a whole?
Or if you are not a follower if the “good of the many school” – how does keeping a suicidal person alive help them or those that love them?
The individual in question is miserable and without options or they would not attempt suicide. You add only to their agony in keeping them alive against their wishes. And to the pain of those around them who most deal with the damage a suicide, by existing, inflicts upon their normal inner circles. There is pain in watching others try to succeed in life and fail. Not once but many times. There is wasted monies in treatments that do not work, in prescriptions, and so forth. There is the worry and depressions inflicted on friends and family, not to mention the angers and frustrations that the more honest will admit to, when that person is saved and hospitalized yet again. There is the damage done to children. There is the damage done by the co-morbids of drinking, drugging and so on.
The blood transfusions, medications and precious doctor time spent on saving my life could have saved the life of someone’s mother, of some teacher, doctor or musician who would have made an impact on society.
If I make an impact on my fellow beings it is either a negligible one or a negative one, so why was my attempt a social, moral, and legal crime? I find that deeply confusing on the grand scale and also on a personal one. Especially, in the light that my own father required serious medical aid recently, massive blood transfusions and so on, and he does contribute to society and on a large scale as teacher, symphony conductor, archivist, and so forth.
So people like me – people who usually don’t want to be alive and breathing are taking away from people like him, who need to be alive and breathing. Like the old Greek said, the cause and effect are easy to see here, he drank too much and so he must piss, some doctor saved me and someone else died. How can this be even vaguely right – morally or legally? And so how can a legally backed, gun-toting sheriff enforce law that actually aids and abets in such a moral wrong be considered right or correct?
Why not let would be suicides die? Who do they hurt in the long run, survival sense other than themselves?
Which brings us to the next step, euthanasia and so called “assisted-suicide”.
Here one finds a topic that draws a lot more contention depending on the degree of involvement with others and degree of the other factors involved.
In the case of a life threatening illness, terminal cancer, leukemia and so on one often hears of and more or less shrugs over hearing that they checked themselves out of the hospital and has a car accident a shooting accident, whatever.
But what about in the case of diabetes? Diabetes is a fatal disease. Skip an insulin shot and see, if you don’t believe me. Should such a person be allowed to kill themselves? If they are productive but depressed? If they are not productive? What about if they cannot live even the semblance of a quality heavy life because they can either have insulin or enough money for other life needs but not both?
What if the are a C4 quadriplegic? Jeffrey Deaver poses that one in his Lincoln Rhyme novels. Rhyme is a quad who wants to commit suicide but he is also a forensic genius who regularly saves the lives of others. Should Lincoln be allowed to bite the bullet? What about a non-productive quad?
Finally, we come to the questions of assisted suicide. Most states have designated assisted suicide as murder and it is thus a felony involving a jail sentence and heavy fines. Yet there are groups – the most notorious being the Lethe Society – that contain everyone from children of the badly suffering to doctors who feel that assisted suicide should be just as legal and be considered just as humane as putting down a cancer laden pet dog.
Again we have many layers to deal with, should the quad be given sleeping pills? Should the patient with MS be provided with a gun? Should junior be allowed to turn Mom off by pulling her life support? What if the patient can and does clearly say that they want to die? What if they cannot? And how does one make these judgment calls?
I personally feel that if I want to die that is my business. If my mom wants to die that is her business. If person Q has terminal cancer and can check themselves out, let them. If they have cancer and ask you to leave the room while they swallow one too many Percodans, fine. If they ask you to help them, in person, in writing, or through a Living Will…that is harder. I suppose I personally would respect their wishes. But if they cannot tell you they want to die, than you have no right to make the decision for them.
I believe in individual rights and individual choices but as soon as you make someone else’s mind up for them – on any issue – than I feel you have gone too far. Even if all you technically did was suggest suicide as an option to someone who has not considered it for themselves.
And by all means suggest other options, but if they fail and the person choices death, than the most respect and love you can then show that person, is going to manifest in letting them make the choice for themselves.