Interview with a suicide site owner
June 24, 2003 3:11 PM   Subscribe

This interview with a "pro-choice" suicide site owner is an interesting read. The website she runs was linked to a few suicides earlier this year, but she contends the site helps people cope and prevents more than it enables. [via k diggity]
posted by mathowie (59 comments total)

 
great stuff and i firmly believe in the goals and ethics of the owner. ironically if you were thinking of committing suicide and then read the suicide methods on a.s.h., you might think twice about it. also previously mentioned here.
posted by poopy at 3:21 PM on June 24, 2003


    ‘Groups Like Us Will Always Exist’ --The administration of a suicide Web site
Not, if alt.suicide.holiday is perfectly efficient in pursuit of their goals, that is.[/ob_comment]

The main problem with this newsgroup is they infrequently press a suicidal poster to seek therapy for their depression.

According to the ash FAQ:
    1.4) Does ash encourage suicide? The ash subculture does not encourage suicide, i.e, we do not persuade people to commit suicide. However, we believe that people have a right to commit suicide and thus, in general, do not try to dissuade people from doing so.
I've been visiting this newsgroup, on and off, for years now, and reading the threads is always a somewhat disorienting experience.
posted by Dunvegan at 3:45 PM on June 24, 2003


I find it sort of disingenuous of ASH to say they do not encourage suicide. Handing a gun to someone who is asking is implicitly condoning their action.

Likewise someone who is planning to commit suicide might be convinced to do so when handed an easy plan whereas other avenues could have averted their deaths and helped them.

That being said, they do have some good points about the moral rights of every individual to decide on their own deaths, something I can wholeheartedly agree with.
posted by xmutex at 3:48 PM on June 24, 2003


I'm having a hard time understanding how these people can claim that they don't persuade people from committing suicide? I mean, I don't think you have to say, "C'mon man, do it. DO IT! It's really cool" to be persuasive. I would think you could be a lot more subtle about it, yet just as effective.

Dunvegan: Do they even try to dissuade people at all? If they do, does their come a point where everyone just says, "Ok. Well if you're going to do it, this is what you should do". This all just seems odd to me.
posted by Witty at 3:55 PM on June 24, 2003


I think this is the kind of thing many people who are afraid of the slippery slope of euthenasia have in mind. It's not too hard to think that maybe it is best to give someone dying of a painful terminal illness access to the morphine dial and let them make a choice. Healthy people living lives they find tormented? I don't think so. I can't see why it isn't better to have groups dedicated to helping people radically change their lives. A living way out would always seem preferable to a dead one.
posted by weston at 4:01 PM on June 24, 2003


I, personally, am alive because of the existence of the site and the channel. Being accepted by persons intrinsically understanding my thoughts and emotional pain made it much easier for me to talk about them.

I don't know that there's a way to approach this empirically, but the site may help to save more people than it helps to destroy. Regardless, it merely helps in either case. It's no more responsible for suicides than Black Sabbath or Dungeons and Dragons-- the suicide was already thinking about it.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:13 PM on June 24, 2003


also from the FAQ:

This attitude combined with other content which appears on the group may cause some to believe that we are promoting suicide, but what we are promoting is merely the right to choose to commit suicide.

This is analogous to abortion rights activists, who are not seen as "encouraging abortions" but as enabling women to choose abortion.

Traditional support newsgroups often attempt to delegitimize suicide by offering a "positive" view of life, "like a lighted window in a winter storm," as one author put it. But to the person viewing that life from outside, it only acts to emphasize the distinction between the warm ideal of life and the person's own cold despair.

So, while the kind of talk taking place in a.s.h. probably isn't what most psychotherapists have in mind as "support therapy", the basic a.s.h. premise of accepting suicide as a valid option encourages people to talk freely about suicide. These people might otherwise feel they had no place to express those thoughts.

posted by poopy at 4:27 PM on June 24, 2003


So are these people recommending that a suicidal person be screened by a competent psychiatrist? So many suicidal people don't really want to die. They just want the pain to stop, and in their desperation they consider a solution that is tragically final and unchangeable.

And suicide doesn't stop the pain-it just passes it to all the friends and relatives. I mean, altho I have moral problems with euthanasia, I can at least comprehend the reasoning behind it. But to have someone who has a treatable depression die at his or her own hand-I can't think of a greater heartbreak for those left behind.
posted by konolia at 4:33 PM on June 24, 2003


I believe that many people who attempt "suicide" are actually attempting to force society to help them: that's why they survive the attempt.

The ones who are really serious about dying succeed, and if they're at all sensible about their decision, their death is clean. It's stupid to leave the sort of mess that's going to cause nightmares for one's family and friends.

The ones who were "saveable" are, I think, those who choose a lethal and messy method. That shows the sort of short-term, egocentric thinking that indicates, to me, a temporarily disturbed mental state.

That's IMHO, based entirely on my subjective experiences, YMMV.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:45 PM on June 24, 2003


i've always considered suicide a fundamental and essential personal right.

no, it's certainly not a right recognized by any of my governments, but whatever. if i wanna kill myself, i'm gonna do it.

"There is a certain right by which we may deprive a man of life, but none by which we may deprive him of death."
- Nietzsche

you own your life
posted by mrgrimm at 4:55 PM on June 24, 2003


i've always found it odd to see many liberals (not including anyone here necessarily) who support a woman's right to choose abortion, a decision that affects (1)the woman, (2)her unborn child and (3)those around her, yet at the same time they have a difficult time comprehending the right of an individual to take their own life, a decision that affects only two of three factors - the individual and those around them.

i believe that ash makes a valid point: 'Messages that attempt to delegitimize suicide by describing the act as sinful, shameful, or selfish...' [emphasis mine] These very same judgements are brought against those women who choose abortion, something which i support, with some reservations of course.
posted by poopy at 5:14 PM on June 24, 2003




>> The ones who are really serious about dying succeed, and if they're at all sensible about their decision, their death is clean. It's stupid to leave the sort of mess that's going to cause nightmares for one's family and friends.

I am on the side that grants suicide as an unalienable right. Where else could anyone hope to find the nformation to avoid causing a nightmare for both family and self?
There is a way to have a respectful suicide, far more often than a respectful accidental death. The reasons are innumerous, not only depression - which may or may not be treatable.
posted by vers at 5:24 PM on June 24, 2003


Poopy, I at least agree with you about one thing. Trying to talk someone out of suicide by describing it as 'sinful, shameful or selfish' is counterproductive totally.

When we try to talk some one down from suicidal ideation on the other forum I frequent (a bipolar support group), we may at times remind the sufferer of the possible effect on loved ones-but only from the perspective of KNOWING that the last thing a suicidal person wants to do is cause others pain. Almost all of us there have been in that person's shoes...

Again, if someone really wants to die, they'll do it. But I don't think those are the sorts of people who want or seek out advice or help on a forum.
posted by konolia at 5:27 PM on June 24, 2003


i've always found it odd to see many liberals (not including anyone here necessarily) who support a woman's right to choose abortion, a decision that affects (1)the woman, (2)her unborn child and (3)those around her, yet at the same time they have a difficult time comprehending the right of an individual to take their own life, a decision that affects only two of three factors - the individual and those around them.

how does a woman's abortion affect those around her? Most of them will probably not even know about it. Most who do know about it will not be profoundly affected; they will be primarily concerned with her well-being. In many cases, people around her may be relieved about the choice she made.

Suicide is a completely different thing; it has a direct emotional impact even on people who weren't particularly close to the individual, and it can entirely ruin the lives of those who were close to the deceased. It is utterly ridiculous to compare the trauma friends and family undergo in these two situations. "suicide is painless" for the one who goes, but not for those left behind.

That said, as I've said previously, I don't think a website is going to convince someone into committing suicide who wouldn't have done so on his or her own. It's a major decision, and the consequences are absolute; even in serious depression life keeps on fighting somewhere in you, even if it does so by making you too exhausted and unmotivated to deal with figuring out how to kill yourself.

I also think the fantasy or imaginary suicide is in some way a kind of medicine - you know it's always there if it should come to that, kind of thing. So a website where people discuss this could easily keep some people going, knowing their thoughts are not abnormal, and that options exist even if there's no need to take advantage of them yet.
posted by mdn at 5:46 PM on June 24, 2003


mdn, that is a pretty weak argument. first of all your assumption regarding abortion is that 'most of them' don't know about it, (including the husband whether or not he is supportive) and then assume again that they will not be profoundly affected. do you know this?

and you don't even bother to mention the fact that this decision - of abortion - IS going to take a life: not the warm and fuzzy life of a human being outside the womb, but the abstract life that is nothing more than a bunch of random chromosomes inside another person's body.

and your main question: how does a woman's abortion affect those around her?

can be juxtaposed with: how does a person's suicide affect those around them?

both affect people, there's no denying that.
posted by poopy at 6:16 PM on June 24, 2003


mdn, that is a pretty weak argument. first of all your assumption regarding abortion is that 'most of them' don't know about it, (including the husband whether or not he is supportive) and then assume again that they will not be profoundly affected. do you know this?

I know people a few who have had abortions; they generally discussed it will close friends and their partner, and afterward may or may not have disclosed it to various other parties - their parents, other relatives, peers, etc. With suicide, everyone around them is profoundly affected. The people they worked with, the people they went to school with, people who expect them at reunions, people who went to their wedding, all relatives, all day to day acquaintances - even their internet friends may feel the loss. Suicide isn't something that you would have to disclose, either - a woman could theoretically have an abortion and never tell another person for the rest of her life. If someone commits suicide, anyone involved with their life will empirically experience the loss. It is not an abstract thing at all, and that makes a big difference.

how does a person's suicide affect those around them?

Individual personalities affect everyone around them; the traits and intricacies of a particular mind, a particular perspective, enrich the communal landscape, and if the perspective seems especially insightful, creative, humorous, giving, (whatever), or if the personality is one with whom you've shared a lot, or one that just appeals to you on some immediate and inexplicable level, then the loss of that unique human being will be tremendous. I am sure there are people in your life who you love. The death of a person you love is probably the most painful thing humans have to endure.

Now answer my question.
posted by mdn at 6:43 PM on June 24, 2003


The death of a person you love is probably the most painful thing humans have to endure.

i'm not denying this and you made some good points of the 'history' of an individual in life and how it affects those around them, but death is, well... death. it's part of the whole game. the death of a loved one to me is of course traumatic, whether it be suicide, accident or some other means.

Now answer my question.

ok, i'm lost. what question? are you talking about 'how does a woman's abortion affect those around her?' if that is it, then i guess you and i would have to ask the particular woman and those around her.
posted by poopy at 7:01 PM on June 24, 2003


how does a woman's abortion affect those around her?

If that is the question you mean, o bossy one, I think that there are many answers. Obviously it depends on the circumstances and whoever knows about it, not to mention the mental state of the woman getting the abortion.

The answer I'm going to give is that those who are affected is potentially everybody. The life that is being ended has potential to be anything we can imagine, from a fantastic leader to a scientist who discovers newelementium; from a wonderful and kind human being to somebody who would make Hitler look like child's play.

Abortion is easier to deal with because, for all intents and purposes, there is no personal interaction with the unborn child (yes, I know there is interaction, but work with me here), whereas with a suicide, that person interacted with dozens of others, sinking emotional hooks into them that cause a lot of pain with their death.
posted by ashbury at 7:19 PM on June 24, 2003


The problem with committing suicide is that misery isn't necessarily a life sentence. When someone kills themselves they're acting from what is almost certainly a false assumption that their life is pointless and that they will always feel awful. I was suicidally depressed for years as a teenager, then I grew up and discovered psychotherapy, and now I'm really happy. Had I exercised my right to commit suicide as a teenager with an extremely myopic view of life, then my life would have been a tragic waste.

The two people I knew who committed suicide left enormous gaping holes in the lives of the people they left behind. They said to their friends and families, "My pain is more important than yours." That's pretty selfish. When you commit suicide, you take everyone in your life down with you.
posted by vraxoin at 7:36 PM on June 24, 2003


ok, i'm lost. what question? are you talking about 'how does a woman's abortion affect those around her?' if that is it, then i guess you and i would have to ask the particular woman and those around her.

If that is the question you mean, o bossy one, I think that there are many answers.


poopy claimed that my question "how does a woman's abortion affect those around her" could be juxtaposed with "how does a woman's suicide affect those around her". I think this is a completely false and demeaning claim. So I tried to articulate why the death of a real person is painful for all the people whose existence is intertwined with that of the person who kills herself. I did not need to suggest that you would have to ask individual cases; it's a universal fact of human life that the death of someone you love and feel connected to is painful.

The same cannot be said of the loss of potential. Potential is lost every time you use a condom or a tampon... and it's completely abstract. You can mourn what might have been, but you are just playing with yourself - you're imagining some scenario but it's all in your head, with no basis in actual interactions with living human beings. Suicide affects you directly. You used to have a person, a living breathing vibrant individual who you loved, and that person is now dead; you will never have another conversation or exchange with her. I think my friends who had abortions made the right choice. I doubt anyone ever thinks their friend made the right choice in committing suicide.

sinking emotional hooks into them that cause a lot of pain with their death.

don't you mean" forming bonds and friendships"?
posted by mdn at 8:00 PM on June 24, 2003


I doubt anyone ever thinks their friend made the right choice in committing suicide.

i would beg to differ.
posted by poopy at 8:04 PM on June 24, 2003


FWIW, mdn, I agree with you, to a point, but it's a pretty damn slippery slope. Suicide is usually more traumatic than an abortion. But I don't think that the two can be compared, which is the point the lady of the quote was making: suicide, while often affecting many people, is ultimately the choice of one person, making a decision over his/her body; abortion, on the other hand, is taking the choice away from the unborn child. Taking your own life or taking away somebody else's, which is worse?

I'm not going into the philosophy of "what if's", but an unborn child is just as much "a person, a living breathing vibrant individual" as anybody else.

Potential can't be discounted, otherwise why have dreams?
posted by ashbury at 8:32 PM on June 24, 2003


poopy: care to share or elaborate? I'm not being snarky. The only two suicides I knew, I didn't know them well anymore, so I don't have much basis to go on. Your story may shed some light on the matter.
posted by notsnot at 8:47 PM on June 24, 2003


okay, perhaps I'm getting a little academic here, but absolutely every interaction between any n entities implies the loss and gain of potential (if potential in this sense were measurable, which it isn't, you could probably even make an argument for its conservation, but you can't, and I digress from digression...).

Every decision precludes and enables future decisions. An abortion terminates one potential person, yet opens the possibility of others existing (consider that the same woman could become pregnant three months in the future with another potential person, a path closed if she continues her current pregnancy to term). A suicide terminates one concrete person, and the potential of all that person's future interactions, yet opens the possibility of other interactions and relationships which would otherwise be closed (my life turned in a completely different direction on the suicide of a member of my family; personally, I think odds are better than even that I'm better off, and in this sense, though it was quite a painful event for me in the short term, it seems I agree with poopy). A sudden death, of course, does the same; it seems that the additional revulsion society assigns to suicide comes from, as has been said, the selfishness of it; the suicide's* decision that his pain is more important than the pain his action will create in others, the ultimate "screw you guys, I'm going home."

That having been said, from a theoretical standpoint, I tend to see the right to suicide as fundamental as the right to independent thought, the means by which no matter what happens you always have a choice to make, though if your choices are A: do nothing or B: kill yourself, you're either not looking hard enough for a C, or things are really fucked. I've always imagined this right in response to absolute tyrrany rather than severe depression; this is perhaps because I'm interested in the nature of governance and have never been clinically depressed.

In any case, thanks for the post.

* I've always objected to the use of the same noun for the action and the person, as if the decision to commit the action somehow objectifies the actor. Seems to me it's just another subtle example of society's disapproval.
posted by Vetinari at 9:31 PM on June 24, 2003


i've always considered suicide a fundamental and essential personal right.

In this post we discussed the possibility that 70,000 years ago there were only 2,000 people alive on this planet. One theory has it that a super-volcano caused a sudden and prolonged drop in global temperatures.

If all of those people thought "It's cold. I should kill myself. After all, it's my life anyway." then there would be nobody to prepare tuna for our cat overlords.

If half of those people decided to kill themselves, which Metafilter members wouldn't be here today?

If only one of them decided to kill himself, what if that one was your ancestor?

Suicide is not personal. It is not a right. Self-murder is a betrayal of one's ancestors, race and future offspring.
posted by cup at 9:46 PM on June 24, 2003


now that's a whopper!
posted by tss at 10:00 PM on June 24, 2003


Dear [famous supermodel]:

Murderer! By refusing to marry me and have many babies, you are effectively killing our offspring that would otherwise exist! I demand that we wed this instant and have at it. Refusal makes you a killer!

Cordially,
--tss

See the analogy? Or IHBT, perhaps...
posted by tss at 10:06 PM on June 24, 2003


...then my life would have been a tragic waste.

I do not believe I'm being petty or pissy when I say that "tragic" is a little overdramatic. On a planet with six bijillion people, a single individual's death is almost assuredly inconsequential in the big scheme of things. Hella impact on family and friends, sure, but not much beyond that.

I suppose by not having children, my wiff and I are betraying our ancestors, race and [potential] future offspring. What bastards we are -- we should probably just off ourselves!

I should mention that I believe anyone giving serious consideration to suicide should try to do so in a manner which will provide the greatest positive impact to those of us left behind.

This means that their first course of action should be to volunteer for the more dangerous third-world missions. There is the opportunity to do great works while at the same time putting one's life on the line. Sure, there's a chance they'll find that selfless charity gives 'em a reason to live, but it's a risk they should be willing to undertake.

Failing to die performing great works, and still wishing to die, there are a number of dictators and despots needing killing. What better way to go out than with the sort of bang that also saves thousands of people from torture and repression? Strap on that plastique and go hug Mugabe!
posted by five fresh fish at 10:29 PM on June 24, 2003


Murderer! By refusing to marry me and have many babies, you are effectively killing our offspring that would otherwise exist! I demand that we wed this instant and have at it. Refusal makes you a killer!

Hi, tss. If the supermodel chooses not to share with you the fruit of her loins, her loins do not disappear. Both you and the supermodel still have your loins intact to use whenever and with whomever you both please. It is a not a choice with forever consequences. Maybe the supermodel may change her mind sometime in the future? As Vetinari said above regarding choice C, maybe you aren't considering all options. Have you tried flowers? ;)

I suppose by not having children, my wiff (sic) and I are betraying our ancestors, race and [potential] future offspring. What bastards we are -- we should probably just off ourselves!

Dear five fresh fish,

My post attacked the act of suicide as a betrayal of mankind because it squanders the efforts of ancestors who lived, toiled and died so that we could be here. It attacked self-murder as a betrayal of race because one death makes humanity weaker - every person contributes to the human race in some way or another. It attacked it as a betrayal of offspring because if Fred Soper had decided to kill himself in his teens, millions of people may not be here today and future generations would not have his shining example that one person's life can make a big difference in the world.

Choosing not to have children is different. I am sure that you and your wife live productive lives and I am sure that life brings with it hardships at times. By having the courage to live, you are not squandering the efforts of your ancestors, you are contributing to the human race at present and the things you do, the things you create and the things you write will all contribute to our future generations. Finally, if everyone decided to have children then at some point in the future our children would have a hard time finding a decent meal. I respect your decision.

I am sorry if you interpreted my post as an attack against people who choose not to have children. That was not my intention and if my post was unclear I apologize. My post was directed at the notion that self-murder is a right and that it is personal.

Thank you both for taking time out of your busy days to reply to my post. :)
posted by cup at 11:31 PM on June 24, 2003


Well said, vraxoin.

I respect someone's right to suicide, but only as a last resort. The way I see it, life can be shit, but that doesn't mean you can't change it and keep on living. If you're going to die in the end anyways, why not exhaust all options for happiness before doing it prematurely?
posted by dazed_one at 11:52 PM on June 24, 2003


To cup: What if I, instead of leading a perfectly normal and productive life, were to slip into the abyss of parasitism? My death would produce a positive net effect.

Secondly, if it is, according to you, acceptable for citizens to lead normal and productive lives without producing offspring, then why is it not acceptable for me to put my parents in that position?
posted by ( .)(. ) at 12:02 AM on June 25, 2003


Dear ( .)(. ),

What if I, instead of leading a perfectly normal and productive life, were to slip into the abyss of parasitism? My death would produce a positive net effect.

What if you eventually get bored of the parasite lifestyle and decide to add something to the world? If you kill yourself you deny yourself that choice, deny us the possibility of benefiting from your potential endeavors and you deny future Metafilter members a tribute to Bob from Fight Club. :)

Secondly, if it is, according to you, acceptable for citizens to lead normal and productive lives without producing offspring, then why is it not acceptable for me to put my parents in that position?

Please read my post to five fresh fish. My attack was directed at people who commit suicide and has nothing to do with people who choose not to have children. If my wording was unclear, I apologize.
posted by cup at 12:30 AM on June 25, 2003


My attack [is] directed at people who commit suicide and has nothing to do with people who choose not to have children.

What is the difference between parents who are childless because of a suicide or non-parents who are childless by choice? Really, you're arguing that one has the arbitrary right to create life but not destroy his/her own. What if I didn't desire to have been put on this planet in the first place?

What if you eventually get bored of the parasite lifestyle and decide to add something to the world? If you kill yourself you deny yourself that choice, deny us the possibility of benefiting from your potential endeavors ... [emphasis added]

What if I don't get bored? In any case, death in itself is a very interesting topic and a person's understanding of it inevitably shape his/her view of suicide.




posted by ( .)(. ) at 1:29 AM on June 25, 2003


Whoa! Killer site mathowie! :-)
posted by nofundy at 5:01 AM on June 25, 2003


I'm not going into the philosophy of "what if's", but an unborn child is just as much "a person, a living breathing vibrant individual" as anybody else.

can you tell me about the individual traits of an aborted fetus? Do you have memories about the times you shared? Do you feel heartbroken every time you pass the cafe where you spent hours laughing over something together? The difference between a person and a fetus is that a fetus is not yet interacting and affecting other lives. We can only abstractly recognize that it had the potential to do that.

Potential can't be discounted, otherwise why have dreams?

I'm not discounting potential, but potential goes in infinite directions; if you're going to mourn the loss of potential honestly, you will be utterly paralyzed because every single choice you make terminates infinite possibilities. I actually think too much about potential and have difficulty committing to any one thing because of my knowledge that I'm shutting down myriad possibilities. But this is completely different from losing a relationship, and if you don't see that I find it hard not to conclude that you don't love anyone...

poopy, perhaps there are cases where you think a person who committed suicide made the right choice, and in the abstract I agree that a person should have the right to make such a choice, but I still think it is an unusually cruel thing to do to family and friends. But perhaps that's just my genes manipulating me to stick around.
posted by mdn at 5:04 AM on June 25, 2003


mdn, I agree with you. It was the first thing I said in my first response. The point that I'm failing to make is that while suicide and abortion are similar, in actuality, the two are not comparable and therefore the example is a bad one.

It sounds to me as though you have first-hand experience of the pain that a suicide leaves behind. If that is the case, believe me when I say that I'm most certainly not trying to cheapen or belittle you or the memory of whoever made their decision. You have my condolences.
posted by ashbury at 5:56 AM on June 25, 2003


Suicide is not personal. It is not a right. Self-murder is a betrayal of one's ancestors, race and future offspring.

Let me repeart myself: absolutely every interaction between any n entities implies the loss and gain of potential...Every decision precludes and enables future decisions. Let's say, hypothetically, that the scattered villages of two thousand remaining humans meet up and decided to form a suicide pact. Humanity is wiped out. While this precludes the possibility of human history, which I'll admit is a familiar and comforting presence, it enables other possibilities: the rise of other sentient animals to civilization, (I believe that neanderthals were not counted in the 2000, but I may be mistaken), the continuance of the dodo, mammoth, and other hunted-to-extinction species, a happy lack of chloroflourocarbon compounds in the upper atmosphere, etc.

Also, there is a difference between biological and moral imperative. We are biologically driven to continue our genetic line, to reproduce, to not betray, as you say, our ancestors. The moral imperative in this case is not so clear.
posted by Vetinari at 6:28 AM on June 25, 2003


I do not believe I'm being petty or pissy when I say that "tragic" is a little overdramatic. five fresh fish

A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.
-Joseph Stalin

Isn't every death inconsequential, in the grand scheme of things, fffish? Or converserely, couldn't every death have consequence?
posted by ashbury at 7:01 AM on June 25, 2003


a false assumption that their life is pointless

I think my life is pointless and everybody else's life is pointless. Existence is pointless. Life is utterly trivial and dispensable. Hope is a mental trick played on you by your brain via hormones and chemistry to stop you realising the utter pointlessness of everything. This malfunctions in depressed people. I probably wouldn't make a great therapist.
posted by Summer at 7:43 AM on June 25, 2003


Hey, if Stalin said it, it must be true. He's a guy you could trust.

Anyway, yes. But it's still overdramatic.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:04 AM on June 25, 2003


Dear ( .)(. ),

Really, you're arguing that one has the arbitrary right to create life but not destroy his/her own.

I am arguing that one's life is not one's own to throw away as one pleases.

If we all appeared out of thin air and lived solely on our own sustenance from birth until death, then our life would be our own and we would have the right to throw it away.

But we don't just materialize. We are all conceived. Most of us are carried for nine months and a lot of us cause our mothers some pain when we are born. We are usually fed, raised, educated and clothed directly by our parents and indirectly by society until we are ready to leave the nest and start feeding ourselves. Even then we are still supported or protected to some extent by society until the day we die. Although society is easily broken (sometimes by despots but usually through indifference), society didn't just materialize. Hard work over many generations went into creating the society that was essential to give us life.

So much goes into making each and every life. Is it our life? Is it something that we have the right to throw away at our leisure and convenience? I may be mistaken but I feel that after we are old enough to start feeding ourselves, we have a responsibility to start thinking about ways we can feed others - not just our family and friends but the society without which we would have no life.

In any case, death in itself is a very interesting topic and a person's understanding of it inevitably shape his/her view of suicide.

I agree. I also believe that contemplating the frailty of life is a key to appreciating it.
posted by cup at 9:26 AM on June 25, 2003


I may be mistaken but I feel that after we are old enough to start feeding ourselves, we have a responsibility to start thinking about ways we can feed others - not just our family and friends but the society without which we would have no life.

What if you're simply not capable of serving society anymore? Personally, I plan to live for as long as I have something to contribute, barring sudden death, of course. Even so, I find suicide to be a very comforting alternative, if I were to become too ill or wounded to have a chance at a productive life. As far as I'm concerned, part of serving society is to stand on your own as much as you can - if one becomes a burden on society, wouldn't their death be a net gain, at least from society's point of view?

It is quite possible that a more societal view on things might lead a person to suicide. In that light, I have a hard time accepting that suicide must necessarily be selfish or irresponsible. To my mind, suicide can be an honorable end to an honorable, productive life within society.
posted by vorfeed at 1:17 PM on June 25, 2003


vorfeed, you're supposed to let us decide when to put you on the ice-floe.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:20 PM on June 25, 2003


I think euthanasia and suicide are different things. usually with euthanasia, the loved ones understand and even share the frustration that some disease or disaster has radically altered the capacities of the person in question. Although that is also heartbreaking, it is different because the disease or disaster has already half-killed the person. The question then becomes do you live on as a shadow of your former self, or do you finish the job? And I can also certainly see a case for the latter (although I can also see a case for the former and think it's highly dependent on the personality of the person involved).

But regular old suicide, killing yourself because you're depressed, hate life, hate yourself, can't find meaning or connection, etc etc, is not really equivalent. Euthanasia is very commonly discussed widely with loved ones, often put into wills even before whatever changes changes; suicide rarely involves more than one person, and when there are suicide pacts or group suicides, they all kill themselves, whereas in euthanasia, people who remain alive can still support the decision openly.
posted by mdn at 4:45 PM on June 25, 2003


mdn, i didn't mean for my last comment to be snarky and i hope you didn't take it that way. that said, i guess we can just agree to disagree: i fully respect the rights of an individual to end their life and you and others don't. that's fine.

but the reality is that when a severely depressed and suicidal person decides to take their own life, all arguments for or against it are mute. i don't have a problem with people trying to help someone in this situation in the same way that i don't have a problem with a.s.h., a community that provides a different perspective not found in common society. i do, however, have a BIG grudge against those who take it upon themselves to judge the deceased based on their own personal ethics.
posted by poopy at 5:50 PM on June 25, 2003


i fully respect the rights of an individual to end their life and you and others don't.

it isn't about respecting rights, I don't think. Obviously people have the right to end their lives, just by the inescapable fact that there's nothing we could do to punish them for killing themselves. And I completely understand the urge toward suicide. All I'm arguing is that it is much crueler to your friends and family to kill yourself than not to, and that the same cannot be said of abortion. I don't have a problem with the idea that abstractly people have the right to kill themselves; I just think that it's an extremely rare case where this would be advisable.

As for the "you owe humanity" argument, I think that's crap too. You are beholden only to those other human beings with whom you've shared your personality - those people you've "sunk your emotional hooks" into, as someone above strangely put it.

And to clarify, I actually do not have direct experience with this issue; I have merely thought about it a lot and imagined scenarios for fictional pieces and stuff like that.
posted by mdn at 6:01 PM on June 25, 2003


it isn't about respecting rights, I don't think.

this is exactly what it is. it seems that the majority don't respect the right of a suicidal person to do themselves in, and more importantly, they judge them even after they're gone.

All I'm arguing is that it is much crueler to your friends and family to kill yourself than not to, and that the same cannot be said of abortion.

you've made great arguments about suicide vs. abortion, but you have to admit some similarities exist between the two: The prevailing opinion against those who commit suicide is that they should be somehow held morally 'responsible' for their actions due to the damage they have caused loved ones. Futhermore, most people are terrified that if alternative resources are out there that correctly explain the suicidal mind and offer methods that are safer for those truly committed to the act, that we could very likely see an epidemic of 'aborted' life.

also let me clarify:) i'm not shouting out to the world that we should all just say 'fuck it' and throw ourselves into a lake of fire. i just have a problem with the attitudes that people have against those who commit suicide and the backlash of reliable resources open to them.
posted by poopy at 6:53 PM on June 25, 2003


this is exactly what it is. it seems that the majority don't respect the right of a suicidal person to do themselves in,

you have the right to call your mother a fucking dirty whore, but why is that a right I should have particular respect for? I'm not arguing people ought to incur punishment for suicide, even aside from the fact that it's logically ridiculous, but I still think it's a bad thing to do. It's just mean.

and more importantly, they judge them even after they're gone.

Who does? People close who are angry at their friends for having done something so mean may express that, but I don't think that's judgment so much as emotional pain. Most people think it's really sad.

anyway, they're gone; why should it matter if people were to judge them?
posted by mdn at 7:05 PM on June 25, 2003


mdn, 'logic' has nothing to do with suicide, as i'm sure you can agree. and yes, i agree (to a certain extent) that those close to the individual are going to express their anger and frustration and of course are right in doing just that.

what bothers me are the people outside that circle, the people who claim that they hold the magical moral deck of cards, that they pompously have 'right' to lay judgement against the deceased. my brother killed himself and i witnessed those that judged him on this act and some openly said that he was going to hell for it. who are they to judge? who am i to judge? sadly, when it comes to suicide, the right and left agree that it is an abominable act that has no ethical defense.
posted by poopy at 7:51 PM on June 25, 2003


vorfeed,

What if you're simply not capable of serving society anymore?

...It is quite possible that a more societal view on things might lead a person to suicide. In that light, I have a hard time accepting that suicide must necessarily be selfish or irresponsible. To my mind, suicide can be an honorable end to an honorable, productive life within society.


I agree. Laying down one's life so that another person may live is a virtue to be cherished and honored. If food were scarce and I was no longer capable of providing for loved ones or society, I hope that I too would have the courage to 'take a walk' from which I would never return. I would, however, consider such actions 'sacrifice' rather than suicide but that distinction may only exist as a prejudice in my mind.

five fresh fish,

vorfeed, you're supposed to let us decide when to put you on the ice-floe.

:)

Aye, and there's the rub. There will be people who will want to be put on the ice floe of their own volition and their loved ones will do anything to try and stop them. On the other hand, there will be those who will have to be dragged to the ice floe kicking and screaming. For an interesting look at a similar situation, I strongly recommend the film Narayama Bushiko. This film can be quite disturbing and I would not recommend showing it to children.

Hopefully, food will never be that scarce. In our IT society, even if a person is no longer capable of physical labor, there is still so much that they can add to the world through their wisdom, ability to think and their accumulated knowledge. I have heard it said that when an elderly man dies it is as if an entire library had burned to the ground.
posted by cup at 8:07 PM on June 25, 2003


poopy

my brother killed himself and i witnessed those that judged him on this act and some openly said that he was going to hell for it.

I am sorry for your loss. Please accept my condolences and my apologies if my posts offended you in any way.

To clarify my argument, it is the *act* of suicide that I view as a betrayal. It is the notion that suicide is 'personal' and that it is a 'right' that I find offensive. Although I take issue with people on advocating suicide as something that it is not, I take no issues with people who have taken the journey into the next world. When a person dies all debts are paid.

As for the 'going to hell' opinion that some people have, I disagree. All monotheistic religions describe their Creator as a Father (or Mother) and an entity that is all-knowing and wise. Would such a Father throw his own children into a fire for eternity? It doesn't make sense. Threats of hell and fear of death are probably man's invention and have more to do with control than reality. How can one use the threat of death as a control device if nobody feared it?

Chuangtse wrote:

"How do I know but that he who dreads death is not as a child who has lost his way and does not know his way home?"
posted by cup at 9:05 PM on June 25, 2003


The right to suicide is of no actual, tangible benefit to the individual who fully exercises it. Thus, it is a worthless right.

But perhaps it does serve some purpose...

1) Euthanasia (aka 'assisted suicide') - intended to provide terminally or chronically ill patients with a dignfied, controlled death. Removal of social/moral stigma must surely improve the serenity and thus the quality of life/death for patient.

2) Recovering attempted suicide - probably racked by guilt at their own inability to cope with life and their selfish disregard for their loved ones. The added burden of society's or even God's judgement only adds to their problems. Further attempts probably less likely if social/moral judgement removed.

3) Those considering suicide - as site/articles repeatedly assert, removing the stigma allows for open discussion of the threat of suicide and thus makes possible its prevention.

4) Successful suicides - lack of moral or social judgement ensures that decision is made simply on the merits of whether individual feels like living anymore. In a sense the lack of such negative connotations improves the quality of the suicide experience (?!) by providing in the period between decision making and action taking, a sense of release from the ails of life. Suicidal serenity. Ok I'm slipping into facetiousness now but it's at this point that I'm reminded of suicide bombers and the stereotypical image of them walking off to imminent Paradise with a smile on their face.

I cannot accept this. Terminating forever one's own existence should not ever be thought off as a positive experience. I want suicides to really hate the process, to equivocate, to be hit full on, all the time by the immensity of what they contemplate. It should be the shitiest thing they ever do.

Thus, whilst I was going to say that I agree with the ultimate argument of those who support the right to suicide (that every human being has the right and responsibility to determine how they live and to control it to as great an extent as possible) I'm forced by the above to disagree. Name a right and (present excepted) it is guaranteed to be ok/good/brilliant to exercise. And the reason? They are of benefit to the individual.

Suicide is quite obviously not of benefit, so I really can't see it as a right I wish to propagate or defend.
posted by pots at 9:25 PM on June 25, 2003


I still think it's a bad thing to do. It's just mean.

Er, sorry, what? It's mean to commit suicide, but it isn't equally mean to prevent someone who wants to die, from dying?

It seems to me there surely must be cases where the pain of living is so great that remaining alive is torture, and that preventing such a hurting person from committing suicide is a worse act than allowing them to commit suicide.

I figure suicide should always be a last resort. There's a lot that can be done to make one's life more meaningful, less depressing, less painful. But when push comes to shove, if someone has chosen suicide, I am never one to say they were in the wrong.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:04 PM on June 25, 2003


Open question:

In Japan, a lot of people take their life by jumping in front of a train. Some of the stations on newer train lines now have safety doors installed on platforms to prevent people from falling or jumping into the path of an oncoming train.

Some people take their life by jumping off of high places as well. In response to this, high-rise buildings and tower observatories usually create obstacles such as bars, fences or other physical barriers to make it difficult or impossible to jump.

Nobody seems to have a problem with these physical barriers (other than the fact that a few of them obstruct a damn fine view).

Is there a problem with creating similar barriers but of an emotional kind? What is wrong with saying suicide is something negative and something unpleasant like pots stated above. Why should we make it easier emotionally by calling it one's 'right' when we don't try to make it easier physically.

Just wondering.
posted by cup at 2:13 AM on June 26, 2003


Sorry. The last two questions in my previous post are missing their question marks. (^_^;)
posted by cup at 2:20 AM on June 26, 2003


mdn, 'logic' has nothing to do with suicide, as i'm sure you can agree.

(just to be clear, I meant it's logically ridiculous to speak of punishing someone who's already dead, not that suicide is logically ridiculous)

my brother killed himself and i witnessed those that judged him on this act and some openly said that he was going to hell for it. who are they to judge?

You have my sincere condolences.

I agree that it's mean, pointless, self-righteous, and basically fucked up to make those sorts of judgements. I've never heard that kind of talk about something so tragic, and it sickens me. cup put it nicely above - all debts are paid. after someone actually kills him or herself all that's left is to mourn, to comfort those left behind, and to remember what was good about them.

Er, sorry, what? It's mean to commit suicide, but it isn't equally mean to prevent someone who wants to die, from dying?

causing pain vs. having to endure pain are different things. Basically, in suicide you're transferring your pain to other people. I don't think this is a good thing to do. But, of course, we CAN'T prevent people from killing themselves, so we can't be mean here.

I'd think it would be pretty mean to tell someone that you wouldn't mind if they wanted to kill themselves, too.

I feel like people are misunderstanding my point. I have no problem with the legal stuff on this - sure, people have the "right" and they can exercise it. I'm an atheist, so god's judgment on this issue is a moot point for me (although only a cruel god would cause more suffering). And once someone goes through with it, abstract moralizing is completely out of place.

All I'm getting at is that a person's individual mind is more valuable and more interconnected than they may think. If someone I loved "took a walk and never came back" because we were low on food, I'd consider that betrayal. Survival is pointless if you don't have people you understand, relate to, and love.
posted by mdn at 5:38 AM on June 26, 2003


what konolia said: we may at times remind the sufferer of the possible effect on loved ones-but only from the perspective of KNOWING that the last thing a suicidal person wants to do is cause others pain.

i've realised that saying, 'i don't want you to die,' and, 'it's hurting me to see you hurting yourself' is selfish, but god, it does hurt and you do suffer with them.

but 'betrayal', mdn? i don't believe my loved ones owe me their lives. if begging them not to kill themselves will get them through the next day, i'll do it (done it), but in the longterm the best i can do is hopefully help them find their own reasons to live.

it's hard. it's difficult to know when to hang on for dear life, and when to let go.
posted by spandex at 7:25 AM on June 26, 2003


I've always considered suicide to be "the coward's exit," for people who are obvious too self-involved to really see how the world functions with them than without them.

I think that's how suicide has become to be seen as "wrong," because it while it may end the suffering of the suicidal person, it only creates sadness, trauma and expense for everyone that person knew. I believe it's dishonorable.
posted by Down10 at 10:10 PM on June 26, 2003


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