2005 Abstracts Stage 3

Suicide – a Question of Morality?

Deanne Dixon, 2005, Stage 3

Traditional Objections to Suicide which I Intend to Challenge: 1. Human life is sanctified, therefore it is wrong to commit suicide. 2. Suicide is wrong because it is selfish. 3. Man is made in the image of God, therefore it is wrong to take your own life. 4. When we die is God’s decision, not ours, therefore suicide is wrong. 5. Suicide is wrong because it deprives society of an otherwise useful citizen. 6. Suicide is wrong because it is ‘unnatural’. 7. Suicide is wrong because it is a form of murder. 8. ‘Life is a gift from God’, therefore suicide is wrong. Why is Suicide Still Stigmatised? 1. The role of the media: Isn’t the media guilty of undermining the seriousness of suicide by expounding sensationalist story-lines, e.g. ‘Tony Blair committed political suicide today’? Isn’t the media also guilty of reinforcing our negative feelings towards suicide to dramatise a situation e.g. using the term ‘suicide bombers’, instead of ‘martyrs’? Doesn’t the media fail to clarify our own confusions about ‘who’ is to blame when a suicidal act occurs? 2. The semiotics of suicide: Doesn’t the language we use as regards to suicide prejudice our understanding of the term suicide, e.g. the verb ‘to commit’ reminds us of the notion of crime (reiterated by the fact that suicide was only made legal in 1961 in England) and the fact that someone who attempts suicide is considered to be a “victim” is a difficult notion to comprehend given that a victim is someone who usually has something wrongful done to them – not someone who inflicts a wrongful action onto themselves. 3. Is the solution more immoral than the problem?: Whilst we are forced to acknowledge that suicide is a problem that has to be dealt with, given our extensive research of the subject, the problem comes with trying to implement a solution. One commentator has suggested the notion of pre-emptive incarceration based upon statistical analysis of suicides? Yet, how problematic would this be? Are the statistics too broad? Or are they too specific? Is it ethical to incarcerate someone because they are a potential suicide? Does the notion of incarceration revert back to the idea that suicide is a crime? What about the financial aspects of such a scheme? Can such a scheme make any real difference given that the existing methods of dealing with suicides (e.g. telephone services) are largely ineffective? Does the solution lie in a re-structuring of society, as Durkheim suggests? What are the consequences of such a re-structuring? 4. “God is Dead” (Nietzsche), and “Life is Absurd” (Camus) but suicide remains stigmatised: When “God died”, we may have expected the traditional rejection of suicide based upon religious (in particular, Christian) arguments to die with him. Yet, this did not happen. This suggests that Christianity did not install within us a sense that “killing is wrong”; what it does suggest, however, is that this sense of repulsion towards murder (in this case, self-murder) is innate within us – Christianity merely provided the vehicle by which to expound this view. Thus, when “God dies”, our prohibitions remained.

Leave a Reply