Suicide prevention: the good and the bad.

Brain in the Jar discusses the three types of suicide prevention: the cruel, the immoral, and the good.

1. Suicide Prevention by Force

This is the cruelest of all types. It shares similarities with rape and murder. ‘By force’ means in a prettier language, ‘rescuing someone from suicide’. Suicide prevention by force is holding back a person from jumping, taking away the gun when they aim it, stopping a suffocation process. When the person is already in the process of dying, intervening is cruel. Surviving an attempt is a traumatic experience. The person will have to live on with the memories of it. Surviving some methods will lead to permanent damage (Especially in suffocation methods). Not only that, but preparing the method and doing it is a lot of hard work. By stopping it, you throw all that work in the trash.

Most importantly, this type of prevention doesn’t address the underlying causes of suicide. It’s not about helping the person with what drives them to die. It’s merely about keeping them alive. If you ever used force in order to stop a suicide, you’re a horrible person.

16 thoughts on “Suicide prevention: the good and the bad.

  1. Wieslavn September 20, 2016 at 20:54 Reply

    Francois,

    If you have a few moments I would appreciate your thoughts on these questions.

    Do you believe it is morally permissible for an unmarried person in their 40’s (who has no children to care for) and who has battled depression for many years to commit suicide?
    What is your opinion of Liberalism which asserts that a person’s life belongs only to them, and no other person has the right to force their own ideals that life must be lived?

    Thanks.

    • Francois Tremblay September 20, 2016 at 21:04 Reply

      “Do you believe it is morally permissible for an unmarried person in their 40’s (who has no children to care for) and who has battled depression for many years to commit suicide?”

      Is it morally permissible? Absolutely.

      “What is your opinion of Liberalism which asserts that a person’s life belongs only to them,”

      I don’t know what “your life belong to you” means, apart from being a statement of freedom. As I’ve detailed on this blog many times, self-ownership is a useless and contradictory concept. If you’re just saying that people should be free, then I agree, although it all depends on how we define freedom.

      “and no other person has the right to force their own ideals that life must be lived?

      I agree on that! Whether a person’s life must be lived or not can only be that person’s decision, because no one else can take a rational decision about it, due mainly to lack of information.

      I don’t see how this particular point has much to do with liberalism as I understand it, though. Liberals are just as much pro-life as anyone else.

  2. genny September 20, 2016 at 21:38 Reply

    Wieslavn:

    There is something right in liberalism of this kind, namely that nobody has a right to enforce conformity to a moral code that is seriously and sincerely rejected by the person on whom he wishes to force it…. But there is something wrong too: for moral codes only make sense as UNIVERSAL prescriptions, and nobody can hold serious moral beliefs without at least trying to get others to conform to them and working towards systems of law and custom that will make them into the norm.

  3. Wieslavn September 22, 2016 at 07:28 Reply

    Thanks Francois.

    Would you consider doing a separate blogpost on the following topic?

    “We suffer from a hallucination, from a false and distorted sensation of our own existence as living organisms,” Alan Watts wrote in contemplating how our ego keeps us separate from the universe. “It is almost banal to say so,” Henry Miller observed, “yet it needs to be stressed continually: all is creation, all is change, all is flux, all is metamorphosis.” But banal as it may be, it is also intolerably discomfiting to accept, which is why we retreat into our hallucination — we resist change, we long for immortality, and we cling to the notion of the self, despite its ever-changing essence, as anxious assurance of our own permanence in an impermanent universe.

    Alan Lightman, a cosmic poet of the ages — begins with the bittersweet beauty of a deeply human rite of passage: As he walked his eldest daughter down the aisle, “radiant in her white dress, a white dahlia in her hair,” she asked to hold his hand and something else, something heavy yet inescapable, gripped Lightman’s heart. He writes:

    “It was a perfect picture of utter joy, and utter tragedy. Because I wanted my daughter back as she was at age ten, or twenty. As we moved together toward that lovely arch that would swallow us all, other scenes flashed through my mind: my daughter in first grade holding a starfish as big as herself, her smile missing a tooth; my daughter on the back of my bicycle as we rode to a river to drop stones in the water; my daughter telling me the day after she had her first period. Now she was thirty. I could see lines in her face”

    Aware of both the absurdity and the humanity of his feelings in that moment, Lightman considers the root of that wistfully familiar existential unease:

    “I don’t know why we long so for permanence, why the fleeting nature of things so disturbs. With futility, we cling to the old wallet long after it has fallen apart. We visit and revisit the old neighborhood where we grew up, searching for the remembered grove of trees and the little fence. We clutch our old photographs. In our churches and synagogues and mosques, we pray to the everlasting and eternal. Yet, in every nook and cranny, nature screams at the top of her lungs that nothing lasts, that it is all passing away. All that we see around us, including our own bodies, is shifting and evaporating and one day will be gone. Where are the one billion people who lived and breathed in the year 1800, only two short centuries ago?”

    Nature, he argues, is unambiguous in her message — from the mayflies that “drop by the billions within twenty-four hours of birth” to the glaciers that “slowly but surely grind down the land” to our own flesh, just as slowly and surely sagging into agedness, order, with all its comforting familiarity, steadily descends into chaos. It is, after all, one of the laws of the universe:

    Physicists call it the second law of thermodynamics. It is also called the arrow of time. Oblivious to our human yearnings for permanence, the universe is relentlessly wearing down, falling apart, driving itself toward a condition of maximum disorder. It is a question of probabilities. You start from a situation of improbable order, like a deck of cards all arranged according to number and suit, or like a solar system with several planets orbiting nicely about a central star. Then you drop the deck of cards on the floor over and over again… Order has yielded to disorder. Repeated patterns to change. In the end, you cannot defeat the odds. You might beat the house for a while, but the universe has an infinite supply of time and can outlast any player.

    Lightman offers an example elemental to our embodied existence — our skeletal muscles:

    With age, muscles slacken and grow loose, lose mass and strength, can barely support our weight as we toddle across the room. And why must we suffer such indignities? Because our muscles, like all living tissue, must be repaired from time to time due to normal wear and tear. These repairs are made by the mechano growth factor hormone, which in turn is regulated by the IGF1 gene. When that gene inevitably loses some tines … Muscle to flab. Vigor to decrepitude. Dust to dust.

    And yet something about the human experience — the human condition, with its implied pathology of consciousness — causes us to tense against this natural progression with anguishing anxiety rather than resting into it with calm acceptance.

    https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/05/22/alan-lightman-accidental-universe-impermanence/

    • Francois Tremblay September 22, 2016 at 14:59 Reply

      This is all great, but what exactly can I contribute to it?

  4. Nybookfile October 18, 2016 at 21:43 Reply

    Summary:

    Life has no objective meaning and there is no reason to think we can give it any meaning at all. Still, we continue to live and should respond, not with defiance or despair, but with an ironic smile. Life is not as important and meaningful as we may have once suspected, but this is not a cause for sadness.

    Would David Benatar agree with this?

    • Francois Tremblay October 18, 2016 at 22:07 Reply

      I have no idea what David Benatar’s opinion on the meaning of life is.

  5. Liudmila November 21, 2016 at 14:10 Reply

    In his still-influential book, Life’s Dominion: An Argument About Abortion, Euthanasia, and Individual Freedom, Dworkin proclaims his support for “a régime of law and attitude that encourages each of us to make mortal decisions for himself.” But he does not carry this proclamation to its logical conclusion. That would entail legalizing physician-assisted suicide for healthy young adults — the very adults our society values most — as well as for the terminally ill.

    Do you recoil at this?

    Are you healthy?

    Do you think that your health makes your life more valuable than a terminally ill person’s?

    Do you think that his life should get less protection from suicidal desires?

    If so, the disability-rights movement has a bumper sticker for you: “I support the right to die. You go first.”

    • Francois Tremblay November 21, 2016 at 15:34 Reply

      “Do you recoil at this?”

      No.

      “Are you healthy?”

      Yes.

      “Do you think that your health makes your life more valuable than a terminally ill person’s?”

      No.

      “Do you think that his life should get less protection from suicidal desires?”

      No.

      “If so, the disability-rights movement has a bumper sticker for you: “I support the right to die. You go first.””

      Well they can go fuck themselves then. Antinatalists are not trying to get anyone to kill themselves. But we support everyone’s right to suicide.

  6. Claudia54 April 10, 2017 at 18:30 Reply

    As a woman, I wonder that I can terminate a life growing inside me based on others’ volatile opinions about what constitutes “viable life,” but I cannot terminate my own life. Whom do I belong to that someone else’s feelings, opinions, and perceptions are more important than my own as far as the continuance or termination of my life is concerned? I can make all manner of so-called horrible life errors, and society tells me that they are all my responsibility. That is the cost, I’m told, of being an adult. I can smoke. I can over-indulge in alcohol. I can make unhealthful dietary choices. I can engage in unprotected sex with many, many high-risk partners. Once I’m a legal adult, I can refuse to continue my education or get a job. I can become homeless, suffer the sexual and other physical depredations of others, and die slowly and torturously. All these things, though nearly everyone agrees they’re unwise choices — mistakes, I’m free to do. Why? Because I’m a legal adult and I am responsible for my own life, terribly “mistakes” and all. The regrets of others who’ve pursued, or been on these paths, never justify another forcing me to act “wisely.”

    Yet I cannot end my own life.

    Why do the suicidal deserve special protections, while the vast majority of society’s derelict do not? Just about everyone who matters — friends, family, politicians, doctors, lawyers, judges, police — tells the societally lost they made mistakes and must now pay for them. Many of them will die painfully, abandoned, and that’s just life. But I cannot end my own life, so you seem to argue, Stacy, for my own “good”? How is that reasoning at all consistent with our culture’s principles of personal autonomy and responsibility?

    Speaking, too, as a licensed physician, even when I am confident a patient would benefit from additional treatment, I cannot force her or him to accept treatment. Even when the prognosis with treatment is statistically “good,” I can only present patients data–survival rates by years from diagnosis, side effects from treatment… Even if death is imminent without treatment, I cannot impose my will on a (non-minor) patient. So I do not believe the justification mental health professionals give, that acting against patients’ wills is justified based on the clinician’s superior knowledge of the disease state, or on the patient’s lack of clear thinking, or on the regret others who’ve attempted an act but failed at it later express over having attempted at all. At the root of the unique treatment modalities for mental health, in particular suicidal ideation, is an unjustifiable belief — not scientific fact — that life is always better than death. Other scholars in philosophy and medicine have written broadly on why this viewpoint is fallacious and never objective. Just as several European countries have finally concluded that life value can only be determined by a person living life, the rest of the world will eventually follow. The modern mental health therapeutic belief system is wholly untenable since it relies, like religion, on others believing the same principles as clinicians and mental health policy lobbyists — all who have a clear stake in the game. On a practical note, if clinicians cannot guarantee sufficient quality of life we understand is so crucial to “mental health,” neither should they be entitled to condemn the humans they cannot help to lives patients actually living those lives find to be utterly hopeless simply because of clinicians’ assessments of their own lives, life in general, or even other patients’ lives.

    The debate over the right to end our own lives is not a matter of medicine or so-called mental health. We already know this since every day patients whose imminent deaths could be forestalled by medical intervention are permitted to reject medical care, and insurance companies are entitled, based on finances, to reject necessary procedures the medical literature tells us are likely to extend patients’ lives significantly. The debate over the right to end our own lives is shockingly rooted in biased value systems — “shockingly” because other people in this arena uniquely get to command otherwise legal adults not to act on our own bodies.

    To me, there is no greater a contradiction to the concept of personal freedom than this.

  7. Claudia54 April 11, 2017 at 08:14 Reply

    Francois,

    Could you give me another day or two? I would like to revise it by including one more paragraph.

  8. Claudia54 April 11, 2017 at 17:56 Reply

    Francois,

    Here is my final draft. Thanks again.

    ===Begin===

    As a woman, I wonder that I can terminate a life growing inside me based on others’ volatile opinions about what constitutes “viable life,” but I cannot terminate my own life.

    Whom do I belong to that someone else’s feelings, opinions, and perceptions are more important than my own as far as the continuance or termination of my life is concerned? I can make all manner of so-called horrible life errors, and society tells me that they are all my responsibility. That is the cost, I’m told, of being an adult. I can smoke. I can over-indulge in alcohol. I make unhealthful dietary choices. I can engage in unprotected sex with many, many high-risk partners. Once I’m a legal adult, I can refuse to continue my education or get a job. I can become homeless, suffer the sexual and other physical depredations of others, and die slowly and torturously. All these things, though nearly everyone agrees they’re unwise choices–mistakes, I’m free to do.

    Why? Because I’m a legal adult and I am responsible for my own life, terribly “mistakes” and all. The regrets of others who’ve pursued, or been on these paths, never justify another forcing me to act “wisely.”

    Yet I cannot end my own life.

    Why do the suicidal deserve special protections, while the vast majority of society’s derelict do not? Just about everyone who matters — friends, family, politicians, doctors, lawyers, judges, police — tells the societally lost they made mistakes and must now pay for them. Many of them will die painfully, abandoned, and that’s just life. But I cannot end my own life, as many seem to argue, for my own “good”? How is that reasoning at all consistent with our culture’s principles of personal autonomy and responsibility?

    Speaking, too, as a licensed physician, even when I am confident a patient would benefit from additional treatment, I cannot force her or him to accept treatment. Even when the prognosis with treatment is statistically “good,” I can only present patients data–survival rates by years from diagnosis, side effects from treatment… Even if death is imminent without treatment, I cannot impose my will on a (non-minor) patient. So I do not believe the justification mental health professionals give, that acting against patients’ wills is justified based on the clinician’s superior knowledge of the disease state, or on the patient’s lack of clear thinking, or on the regret others who’ve attempted an act but failed at it later express over having attempted at all. At the root of the unique treatment modalities for mental health, in particular suicidal ideation, is an unjustifiable belief — not scientific fact — that life is always better than death. Other scholars in philosophy and medicine have written broadly on why this viewpoint is fallacious and never objective. Just as several European countries have finally concluded that life value can only be determined by a person living life, the rest of the world will eventually follow. The modern mental health therapeutic belief system is wholly untenable since it relies, like religion, on others believing the same principles as clinicians and mental health policy lobbyists — all who have a clear stake in the game.

    Lastly, on a practical note, study after study links quality of social life to depression risk. We’re all advised to have healthy and sufficient connections with others we care about and who care about us. But, who doesn’t want quality social relationships? A mentor of mine from my residency commented about the health protection of friendships that what counselors usually fail to acknowledge is that every relationship requires two people. There are very many reasons outside an individual’s control for her potential isolation. Clinical psychology fails to address how persistent these may be despite therapy, drugs, or other interventions. You can only hope to change an individual, not the others she must interact with. So the clinicians who are adamantly against the right of the patient to choose death, will they commit to being with each patient throughout the week, the day, the night, when loneliness sets in and these people feel abandoned and desperate? Can the clinicians guarantee that whatever treatment-du-jour will overcome the early-life formative experiences we know literally mold neurology so that these patients feel radically different, more inclined to stay alive? Will clinicians guarantee patients’ communities will put aside classism, ageism, scathing prejudice based on body habitus, or any of the other myriad prejudices that isolate over a lifetime? Or will clinicians be there, day after day, to provide the intimacy of a hug, holding those who need frequent reassurance? Or can clinicians guarantee a more equitable or hospitable world in general — especially regarding the sometimes monstrously callous or patently malignant mental health system itself?

    I think not.

    So, if clinicians cannot guarantee sufficient quality of life we understand is so crucial to “mental health,” neither should they be entitled to condemn the humans they cannot help to lives patients actually living those lives find to be hellish isolation and hopelessness simply because of clinicians’ assessments of their own lives, life in general, or even other patients’ lives.

    The debate over the right to end our own lives is not a matter of medicine or so-called mental health. We already know this since every day patients whose imminent deaths could be forestalled by medical intervention are permitted to reject medical care, and insurance companies are entitled, based on finances, to reject necessary procedures the medical literature tells us are likely to extend patients’ lives significantly. The debate over the right to end our own lives is shockingly rooted in biased value systems — “shockingly” because other people in this arena uniquely get to command otherwise legal adults not to act on our own bodies.

    To me, there is no greater a contradiction to the concept of personal freedom than this.

    ===End===

  9. […] As a woman, I wonder that I can terminate a life growing inside me based on others’ volatile opinions about what constitutes “viable life,” but I cannot terminate my own life. […]

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