Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Life-and-death choices II

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A, I hope, last death-related entry for a good long while:

My previous text ([1]) spoke of potential complications around a too liberal approach to assisted suicide.

A drastic counterpoint to such an approach is the bans on suicide that have been historically common. Such bans are also a violation of the right to choose for oneself, and a more obvious one, but they differ through their ineffectiveness, as the successful perpetrator is, as a matter of definition, dead. There is a possibility to punish someone for a failed attempt, but this is not much of a deterrent in the big picture and “if at first you don’t succeed …”.* Short of punishing surviving loved ones,** a claimed punishment in the afterlife might be the only way to go, but that presupposes credibility concerning both the existence of an afterlife and this punishment. In some cultures, the threat of e.g. dragging someone’s name or honor through the mud might work, but this hardly applies to the modern Western world.

*It does raise interesting questions around spur-of-the-moment attempts at suicide, where, after failure, there might be no wish to go through with the act, the allegedly common attempts that are intended mostly as “calls for attention”, and similar, but these are off topic, as they do not reflect a true wish to die.

**An approach so obviously unethical that it should make the law worthy of condemnation even to those who are in favor of a ban. Note that such punishment need not involve, say, a prison term, but might include e.g. some type of “forfeiture” claims directed at the estate of the deceased, which would hurt the heirs and not the deceased, even should they nominally be directed at the latter.

Correspondingly, bans on suicide (that are not draconian) are a lesser evil than undue suicide pushing and too lax laws on government approved suicide.

More interesting questions include where to draw the border between regular suicide and something else, and how this something else is to be treated and classified in what cases. Consider, in jurisdictions where suicide, per se, is illegal, when and whether assistance rendered can make someone an accomplice to the crime of suicide. Even outside such jurisdictions, we have issues like where to draw the border between assistance and murder/manslaughter/whatnot, what level of encouragement (to go ahead) is tolerable in what setting,* when there should be an obligation to provide alternatives, when an offer to assist and/or a request for assistance should require a “cooling off” period, etc. While I will not attempt to answer these questions, I point to risks such as the ones described in [1] and the fundamental difference between aiding or “aiding” someone not otherwise capable of suicide and someone who, given enough determination,** could manage on his own.

*That such encouragement can and often should be illegal is clear. Consider e.g. a deeply unhappy high-school student who is exposed to “encouraging” bullies. Even in a more medical setting, a case can often be made, as seen by how many who experience gender-dysphoria have been prematurely encouraged to take irrevocable steps. An analogous, “suicide affirmative”, approach could lead to a great many unnecessary deaths—maybe including that someone who engaged in a “call for attention” pseudo-attempt is encouraged to try again and with professional help to guarantee success.

**This might be an important point: with unassisted suicide, a greater amount of determination might be needed, which increases the likelihood that the suicide truly reflected the will of the deceased.

Written by michaeleriksson

December 29, 2022 at 11:05 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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One Response

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  1. […] hearing about this in the past.* Secondly, my recent writings on life-and-death choices (cf. [1], [2], [3]), which overlap in the idea of less-than-voluntary death. Indeed, pushing DNRs to e.g. free up […]

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