This post is part of the ongoing series on death the Skeptic Ink Network is putting forward.
For my part, I’d like to share-translate this reflection upon suicide by Mauricio-José Schwarz:
I do not think there is “suicide” as such, but rather different circumstances, contexts, moments and ways in which someone decides they do not want to continue living. Some times it is the exercise of the individual’s freedom and some times it isn’t. You can’t compare someone commiting suicide at age 95 because they don’t want to undergo three months of horrible pain and then die inevitably to those who commit suicide at 16 because their parents do not understand them or because their girlfriend or boyfriend broke up with them.
In principle, I think we all have the right to decide about our lives, about how to live them and for how long and under what conditions. But when the decision is tainted by depression, manipulation (i.e. religious manipulation that leads an otherwise regular person to wear an explosive vest and go kill 20 innocent people), ignorance and other constraints, there is no real freedom being exercised, and in such cases it is the responsibility of those who care about the person and of the whole society, to prevent the suicide until at least the person is emotionally well (as much as possible), informed and free from manipulation. If they persist in their desire to stop living, they must have access to fast, effective and painless ways to achieve it.
Especially in cases of terminally ill people, with cancer, quadriplegic or victims of severe pain or other disabilities, forcing them to stay alive and suffer is a cruelty that can only make happy someone who is so outrageously twisted as fundamentalist religionists, those people for which happiness provokes fear and rejection, and pain and suffering fill them with joy (by the way, I think that’s the definition of a major psychopathology).
That’s why I like some particular (assisted) suicide laws, because they seek to be certain that the suicidal is acting with full awareness, in full possession of his mental faculties (as the saying goes), with no serious emotional disturbances and as a result reflection and not a momentary outburst.
Of course, since I think this is the only life we have, I think it should not be trivial to end it. There is no reincarnation, no reward or punishment in the world of fairies, there is a number of physiological processes that end and with them what we call our personality, which is quite unique. In that sense, I personally think life is sacred and therefore all human lives should be cared for with dedication by all the other human beings. For the same reason, if someone wants to kill himself, do so without taking others in the process, making it clear it was their decision and responsibility so no one else gets blamed over their death, and trying not to leave too much to clean up for those who remain trying to enjoy their lives, however hard they are.