Monday, January 21, 2008

The Selfishness Argument against Suicide

A conversation that I had tonight called to mind an old argument on suicide.

Let us keep in mind that most suicides are the irrational product of a preventable mental illness – and the fact that a person thinks that his own death is justified does not imply that it is justified.

However, let us assume a case in which a person is in excruciating pain, and will be for the rest of his life. This person wants to end his life.

One of the arguments that I have often heard against suicide is that, “If you kill yourself, you are just being selfish. You’re not thinking about all of the people who will be upset over your death. Quit thinking about yourself and think about them for a change.”

It seems that this argument has an easy answer. Yet, I have never read or encountered this answer anywhere.

“If these other people truly cared about me, they would not want me to be in this much pain. When they ask me to stay alive, they are the ones who are being selfish. They are asking – even demanding – that I continue to endure this pain so that they need not suffer through the unhappiness that my death would bring. What gives them the right to demand so much from me, while I am denied the right to demand so little from them. And, indeed, it should be little, because a person who truly cares about me will be relieved by the fact that my suffering has ended. The person who wants to prolong my suffering is not somebody who truly cares about me.”

This is not an argument for readers to go out and consider suicide. In fact, if a person is considering suicide, then I would like to advise him or her to seek professional help – determine if it is, in fact, a result of a treatable preventable illness.

You can always kill yourself later if you learn that this assessment is not correct.

1 comment:

Hans said...

One must be careful not to promote selfishness as a negative motive, depending on other people is going against the human nature to be a self-sufficient and healthy ego.