Ethical Issues on Suicide

Suicide is defined as an intentional and uncoerced self-killing in which the conditions causing are self-arranged. Suicide has been condemned as necessarily immoral by most western religions and also by many philosophers. It is argued that suicide defies the will of God, that it is socially harmful and that it is opposed to nature, thereby degrading humanity by treating themselves as a thing rather than as a unique human being.

The applied ethical issue of suicide focuses on two problems of whether suicide is permissible, and if so whether suicide intervention is permissible. Although many ethical issues emerged only recently, the issue of the moral permissibility of suicide has long been a history in a philosophical discussion.

The ancient Stoics condoned suicide, but they believed in universal human freedom. Depriving any group of individuals or any person of freedom of choice, whether subtly, is contradictorily opposed to the principles. Many critics of the view that demands the right to suicide point out that, while liberty for some may result, others lose their freedom – older people who would not choose to willing but would be pressure into the choice by family members or doctors, as well as those who might make an irrational choice for death when they were temporarily in pain that was adequately controlled, those suffering from the effects of disease, or those who are severely depressed or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, which depicts a “rational” decision impossible.

Most supporters of the right to die and of the “death with dignity”, as well as those who favor rational suicide and legalized assisted suicide for the old, argue from the perspective of terminal illness and pain and suffering. For instance, Plato opposed suicide since it “frustrates the decree of destiny”(Plato, 1993); he also argued “the gods are our guardians, and that we are a possession of theirs, then there may be reason in saying that a  man should wait, and not take his own life until God summons him, as he is now summoning me”(Plato, 1993). Aristotle also opposed suicide since it is “contrary to the rule of life”(Aristole, p8). Greek and Roman philosophers approved of suicide as a means of ending suffering.

Furthermore, newspaper accounts and television programs on the topic of older suicide selectively portray the suicidal older person as ill and intense physical pain. These out advocates and media have mistakenly given the public the impression that most polder people who choose suicide are sick and in pain or are suffering from terminal illness. The fact is that this is not true. Psychological autopsy studies conducted in around the world show that most older people who commit suicide are not terminally ill, but only about 2% to 4% of suicides are suffering from terminal illness (Dempsey, 1977).

Roman philosopher Seneca (Seneca, 1932) condones suicide in cases in which age takes its toll on us and prevent us from living as we should by stating that “I will not relinquish old age if it leave my better part intact. But if it begins to shake my mind, if it destroys my faculties one by one, if it leaves me not life but breath, I will depart from the putrid or the tottering edifice” – if the Roman philosopher Seneca knew that he must suffer without hope of relief then he will not depart from the world through fear of the pain itself but because it prevent all for which he should live.

Stoic philosopher Epictetus (Voltaire, 1824) also endorses suicide. The principle moral theme of Stoic philosophy is that we should resign ourselves to whatever fate has in store for us. Epictetus suggests that, for some of us, there may be limits to what we can endure in this life and, so, when things get too intolerable, we may wish to end our lives (Voltaire, 1824).

Epictetus also decribed a person’s option to whether they should commit suicide by remembering first of all that the door stands open. For when a situation seem to be either slightly grim or grievous then question yourself and decide should I remain and deal with the problem or should I quit and end my life right here at this moment.

The traditional Christian focus concerning dying is on repentance, not dignity. The goal of a traditional Christian death is not a pleasing final chapter to life, but union with God: holiness.

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