morality of suicide

  1. I had a conversation with a cop who had just come from a suicide of a 50yo man. The general concensus was that it was a selfish act, but I don't agree. If a patient is in any type of chronic unrelenting or untreatable pain (physically) we allow them to make choices that relive the pain and shorten their life. What about mental or emotional pain makes it different so that friends and relatives can call the victim selfish?

    Any insight is welcome
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  2. 22 Comments

  3. by   fergus51
    My gut reaction is the selfish one. However, I prefer to consider the person who commited suicide as mentally ill and it isn't their fault because they aren't of their right mind. Someone so depressed that they commit suicide progbably can't even think about the pain they are causing their loved ones.
  4. by   babynurselsa
    For the people not experiencing the pain of depression, suicide probably seems a very selfish act. For the person who is so lost in their pain and despair that death seems like the only way to make it stop, it seems like the only way.
    Yes, I speak of one who knows both sides.
    I have been there. At one point I was in such pain and misery, that the only way I could see to make it stop was to die. Would I have been called selfish for leaving my 2 beautiful daughters behind to deal with their own pain? You bet.
    I think until one has experienced that deep dark hell called depression can they truly appreciate what despair is.
  5. by   tripletmom
    Babynurselsa, I think you hit the nail right on the head. Unless you have been there it is very hard to make people understand. I don't think it should make a difference if the pain is physical or mental.
  6. by   duckie
    First off, I can speak as someone that nearly committed suicide at one point in my life. I was dealing with horrible pain, day in and day out that no one could stop, so pain killers kept me moving one foot in front of the other. One day I started to overdose, then I believe God spoke to my heart, opened my eyes that I really didn't want to die, I just wanted help. So I made a phone call, a friend knew I was having a breakdown and cared enough to bring my family together and my doctor got involved and a surgery was scheduled that they weren't sure would help but at that point they were willing to try. I thank the Lord, it did help and after resolving many problems, I had my life back again. Sometimes, even in the closest of families, the people around you don't know what you are feeling, unless you tell them. I was embarrassed that I had let me life get so out of control, that I couldn't control what was happening to me. I thought that suicide was the only way, but after many years of living a normal pain free life, I see now what I would have missed. I would also like to state they many of us are in the process of committing suicide on a daily basis. We smoke, drink to much, eat to much of the wrong foods, it's not an instant death, but a certain one, all the same. I am trying very hard to break those habits, cigs and food, don't drink, thank God, and one day at a time is the only way I can deal with it. After what I have gone through in my life, I do not judge, I just try to be a better listener because someone may be asking for help and if I don't care enough to listen, like someone did for me, then they too could miss out on many wonderful days. Judging in my book, is up to God.
  7. by   Jacaut
    I get terribly depressed and want to end it all. I see it as an act of mercy, taking my wasted self out of other people's ways. This is despite the fact I have wonderful relationships with my daughers. They are why I still breathe. I get my rump out of bed even on the worst days because they deserve more than grief. I'm making goals and working for them. I cry a lot when I'm alone. I get moving, get over it, find things that have meaning. Life isn't fair, genetics aren't fair- depression is a dark, unrelenting place where nothing matters much and pain is all you feel. Still, it's better than the rack.

    So a person who commits suicide is a person ending their pain. It's a pain they have lived with for a long, long time. They feel like their death overbalances their life. It isn't selfish- it's beyond that. It may actually be what they consider a selfless act.

    So try to SEE everyone- don't treat people like nuisances or numbers or cases. They may need you very much to get through the day.

    Jackie
  8. by   JW-HLC
    i just received this report of a survey into suicide conducted in the us.

    new york (reuters health) jan 11 - nearly two thirds of us adults believe that the law should allow physicians to assist patients in committing suicide, if it reflects the wishes of a dying patient in severe distress, according to the findings of the latest harris poll.

    however, roughly 3 in 10 of the more than 1000 adults surveyed said that the law should not allow physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia.

    the nationwide poll was conducted via telephone from december 14 through december 19, 2001.

    more than 60% of the respondents said they disagreed with the 1997 us supreme court ruling that individuals do not have a constitutional right to physician-assisted suicide, while about one third agreed with the ruling. the remaining individuals said that they were not sure whether they agreed or disagreed.

    furthermore, 6 in 10 respondents said they favored legalization of assisted suicide based on oregon law, which stipulates that euthanasia be performed only after the patient requests it three times; after a second opinion from another physician; and after a 15-day waiting period during which time the patient may change his or her mind.

    oregon's "death with dignity act" was challenged during the late 1990s by the us drug enforcement administration (dea), which ruled that physicians who prescribed federally controlled drugs in accordance with that law would violate the federal controlled substances act (csa). this ruling was overturned in 1998 by then-attorney general janet reno.

    in early november 2001, however, attorney general john ashcroft reversed reno's ruling. in a memo to dea administrator asa hutchinson, he wrote that "dea's original reading of the csa--that controlled substances may not be dispensed to assist a suicide--was correct," and ordered that it be reinstated and implemented.

    survey participants were told that ashcroft "moved to overrule (the proposition), which he says is now illegal," and were then asked, "do you think (he) was right or wrong to do this?" more than half (58%) of the respondents said that ashcroft was wrong, while 35% said he was right.

    "no matter which questions are asked, there is a strong, approximately two-to-one majority in favor of an individual's right to euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide where terminally ill patients clearly want this to happen," the survey concludes.

    in light of the survey findings, ann jackson, executive director of the non-profit oregon hospice association, told reuters health: "i think the public is moving towards wanting the right to make choices for themselves."

    she added, however, that caution should be used when taking steps "to make so-called public belief part of public policy."

    "we should not use the law to fix problems that could be fixed in another way," she said.

    on the other hand, burke balch, director of the department of medical ethics for the national right to life committee, suggested that some of the survey respondents may have been misled by the way the questions were asked.

    the polling question about ashcroft, for example, "is flat out wrong," he told reuters health.

    "it does not reflect the fact that he was enforcing a federal law rather than overturning oregon law," he explained. polls that make that distinction when asking such questions "show two-to-one support for the attorney general," he claimed.

    furthermore, "when the voting public in a state has focused on the actual consequences of legalizing euthanasia they have, with the exception of oregon, voted against it," he said.

    dr. gregory hamilton, co-founder of physicians for compassionate care, added that "as soon as people look at the specifics of what happens when the power of assisted suicide is given to doctors in health maintenance organizations (hmos,) they don't want it (euthanasia) anymore." physicians for compassionate care is an association of healthcare professionals that seeks to minimize the pain of severely ill individuals through compassionate care while educating physicians and the public about the risks of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.

    citing instances in which depressed individuals were given assisted suicide instead of treatment, and a demented individual was forced by her family to choose euthanasia, he said, "assisted suicide in the context of cost-containment in the practice of medicine is too dangerous."


    personally i do not agree with suicide, assisted or otherwise, let's care for one another - who knows, it just might make a difference.
  9. by   canoehead
    The pain of depression is not the same as that of grief or loss, and it has no discernable cause, and also no relieving or aggravating factors that give the depressed person some control- making them feel even more helpless.

    WE've talked on this board about how families will not let go of terminally ill and make them a DNR- they make them suffer out of their own guilt. I think that perhaps it is easier to see someone who commits suicide as selfish, when actually those that are left behind and resent their relative for putting them through the grief after death are more selfish. They would rather that person had stayed alive so they would not have to deal with their sadness. If that person had been physically ill it would be easy for us to say it was the family that was selfish- what's the difference?
  10. by   thisnurse
    the difference is that you can see physical illness but mental illness is not readily apparent.
    tell someone you are depressed and nine out of ten times they will tell you to 'GET OVER IT' or tell you they were once depressed. when they relay their story they are talking about having the blues. clinical depression is SO different.
    that seems to be the general understanding of our society. they just dont get it.
    i dont know if its selfish or not when children are considered. i guess its all in how you look at it.
    i am not judgemental about those who chose to die rather than live in pain. so many people say "i just dont understand". i understand, just dont know if i agree. ive had friends commit suicide. i feel so bad that they had kept all that pain so deep inside them. their final hours must have been horrible.
    i recall sitting in that kind blackness and my now ex telling me that i am a "BURDEN to my family"
    his ignorance of what was happening to me was the first laugh i had in the longest time. i got help.
    ive never gone back to that kind of darkness. i hope and pray i never do.
    but in my mind always....
    there but for the grace of god go i
  11. by   zumalong
    Being a survivor of suicide, I come from a different viewpoint than others. My brother-Danny suffered from depression for most of his life. He turned to substance abuse to try to deal with the depression--this in turn made it worse.

    I watched a wonderful, sensitive, caring individual become a mere shell of a human being. When he took his life in 1997, I do not think he was being selfish. He was ending a terrible pain that was as real as the worst cancer pain. Our society is blind to depression and it's role in our health care.

    Trying to get over this loss has been compounded by the second suicide of my other brother Doug. Unlike Dan he hid his pain and never let us see how down deep in the hole he was. I have to believe that he is now with Danny and is happy again.

    My goal is to educate the public--especially Nurses and health care workers that these people who are suicidal and depressed are someone's brother, sister, mother, father, son, daughter. I have seen too many times the stigma that becomes attached to a patient that is admitted to the floor with "Etoh abuse" or "hx of depression". The staff at times leaves the conference room with preconceived notions of that person without even knowing them.

    Suicide is not a selfish act it is a desparate act from someone who's pain is so great they see no alternative other than ending the pain.
  12. by   RyanRN
    Very nicely put and insiteful of you zumalong. Yes there is a tendency to pre-judge and label these kinds of patients.

    Sorry for your pain and losses and be assured that I , for one, will examine my own conscious, keep a check on my feelings and prejudices ,and not follow suit. Thanks for this sensitive reminder and your thoughtful educational goal.
  13. by   Charles S. Smith, RN, MS
    Nicely put Zumalog and I too applaud your position on the subject. Sometimes suicide is a choice between alternatives. I do not live in the other person's body or mind, so have no clue what goes on there. I can only ask the questions, pose alternatives, but ultimately support the individual in her/his choice. Many times we equate the loss of life by one's own hand as "not God's will". Well...if it were God's will that the person live, she/he would live and the suicide would not occur. How we end our earthly existence is for some a matter of direct control. For others it is externally controlled. The choice one makes to leave this earth for a higher existence is just that...a decision based on countless contextual factors unbeknownst to those of us who look on. There is a lot to be learned from those who choose to end their lives, if we only take off our judgmentmental lenses and have a real look inside.

    my best
    chas
  14. by   mario_ragucci
    I might as well chime in on this. Killing yourself harms others, meaning, people that love you, and to an extent, the other humans that find your body, and think of why you did that to rule out murder. If you get down the pipe to the point you realize no one loves/cares for you, suicide is up to YOU then. It's easy to justify killing yourself. People come and go everyday.
    What I don't understand as well are the folks who say they "tried" to commit suicide. Does that really mean you wanted to be absolutely reckless, but planned on surviving? Honestly; How can you intend to kill yourself and fail (unless you really didn't want to) (?)
    It's the folks who want to take others with them, like you hear on the news when someone shoots a lover/boss, and then shoots themselves. Kamakaski's.
    But a patient who wants to die for any reason? Didn't Paul MaCarney say "Live and let die"
    You may be able to sense some peoples lives are negative to themselves (others) and they never smile. Being mysterous is what can make people so interesting.
    It's society that makes suicide a shameful thing. I feel sad every time I hear of one, but quickly develop indifferent feelings, so I don't get confused. Can go on and on

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