Putting up Barriers to Suicide

There is a good article in the Herald Sun today: Tread carefully when dealing with dying. One of the first comments at the end says:

Anni of Melbourne Posted at 3:17 PM Today
There is a huge difference between turning off life support for someone unable to make that choice, and assisting someone to end a painful and terminal condition who can choose. As per usual the Herald Sun has some how completely ignored the issue. As some one who has a disability I understand the desire to have some say over how you die. It disgusts me to believe that some people believe it is kinder to watch fellow humans suffer intense agony than allow then a dignified and peaceful death.

Granted that there IS a difference between 1) “turning off life support for someone unable to make that choice” and 2) “assisting someone to end a painful and terminal condition [by killing themselves] who can choose”, the difference does not make the latter action good and right.

In the article, Alan Howe writes:

We put up all sorts of barriers to prevent people from killing themselves – quite literally. Soon, there will be expensive high fencing across each side of the West Gate Bridge to try to stop the regular suicides that take place there. Surveys show that many people who believe they want to commit suicide think again if there is just one degree of difficulty.

It is worthwhile asking why a society that sees suicide prevention as a priority (though probably not a high enough one) would want to introduce bill to legalise suicide? What is it about the mental strains of bearing physical illness and suffering that we treat it as a different case to the mental strains of any other kind of suffering? Why does our society regard suicide as wrong and requiring to be prevented at all costs, except in the case of those who are terminally ill (according to diagnosis, not knowledge of the future), in which case there are a disturbing number of people who wish to actively enable such suicides and assist people to achieve them?

Does anyone have an answer?

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41 Comments

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41 responses to “Putting up Barriers to Suicide

  1. Does anyone have an answer?

    I get the impression that you’re not interested in an ‘answer’, David. You have a frame of reference (yes Louise, a ‘narrative’) that sees things in a certain way and when that doesn’t ‘fit’ you’re mystified.

    When you frame your opponents as ‘cow killers’ you’re not in a state of mind that is willing to listen. When you want to join some in society who want to reduce issues to catch phrases, you close yourself off to being open to people’s anguish and confusion.

    As always: IMHO.

    • Gareth

      And when was the last time you actually listened to anything or anyone that doesn’t fit your own ‘narrative’, Tony?

      • Tony

        And when was the last time you actually listened to anything or anyone that doesn’t fit your own ‘narrative’, Tony?

        Perhaps an hour or so ago. (Tuesday is hospice day).

        And you, Gareth?

        In response to your words:

        People should either join in the cause and do something positive or shut-up and remain a passive supporter of Bob Brown.

        I posed this:

        So, from now on, whenever you offer an opinion about a subject, I guess you’ll let us know what you are doing about it first, so we’ll know if you’re entitled to express that opinion or ‘shut up’.

        It’s a deal, Gareth.

        Your pithy reply:

        Deal

        So, what are you doing, Gareth?

        • Gareth

          doing about what?

          That you preach to people from on high about not ‘listening’ or willing to take on board views outside their own terms of reference, but if you bothered to read your own work you would learn that YOU do precisely the same thing e.g. you never listen to anything anyone ever says and you are unwilling to go outside your own ‘narrative’.

          You can’t be serious about chastising others, when you are not interested in anything anyone else has to say.

          • Tony

            You can’t be serious about chastising others, when you are not interested in anything anyone else has to say.

            Not ‘others’, Gareth. Just you.

    • Well, let us presume for the sake of the discussion that I am interested in an answer, Tony. Do you have one to suggest?

      • Tony

        I can’t reduce my response to pithy one-liners and easy deliniations, David.

        I believe that most people who are interested in this issue are people of good will and we need to treat them as such and that doesn’t depend on what ‘they’ do; it’s part of the way we are as church, IMO.

        I think Frank Brennan provides a good model of how to engage with people who think euthanasia is a good thing: Hung parliament no place to be ham-fisted on euthanasia.

        There’s no naivety about the role of the Greens, but I think there is an underlying respect for those who have different views.

        • Gareth

          The article you posted Tony is not about having respect for those who have different views Tony.

          Its core arguement was that euthanasia laws shouldn’t be ‘ham-fisted’ through Parliament?

          I think also Father Frank Brennan has a guily conscience about telling people that it is ok for Christians to vote Green because they have ‘humane policies’, but the first thing they do is turn around and introduce such extreme laws.

          Father Brennan should apologise to Cardinal Pell and be man enough to admit he was WRONG about the Greens – a Christian having anything to do with such an extreme party is simply uncompatible.

        • Louise

          Do you mean the Greens have respect for people of different views? If so, I wouldn’t agree with that.

    • Louise

      You have a point about listening, Tony, but in the end we cannot agree with people who advocate euthanasia and at that point (no matter how empathetic we have been) we will be denounced as uncompassionate etc. This is how modern discourse tends to go.

      • This is how modern discourse tends to go.

        But we are representative of a view that is not afraid to challenge the culture. I think that’s not just about what we say, it’s about how we say it and, more broadly, what we do.

        I think if we, in a sense, take on a form of discourse because that’s ‘how it goes’ we’re accepting a form of discourse that is inferior and one which we’ll ‘lose’. At the risk of opening another whole can of worms, I think this is illustrated in the abortion issue.

        • Ok, and I am asking you a question by which I, as “representative of a view that is not afraid to challenge the culture”, should challenge that culture.

          Why does our culture believe that suicide is a bad thing in every circumstance except “terminal” illness or “unbearable” physical suffering?

          • Tony

            Again David, it’s hard to answer your questions because of the way you put them. They seem to me to be loaded with assumptions that are at least questionable, if not ones that I just don’t see that you’ve justified.

            Not only that, when Pere tried to answer your original questions using terms he acknowleged were not ideal, you concentrated on the terms rather than how he was using them to try to shed light on your original questions.

            But, notwithstanding all that, my take is that ‘society’ — or perhaps a prevailing view in society — believes that as individuals we have the right (and it should be acknowleged in law) to make a decision, in certain circumstances, that the ‘goods’ of our living our ‘outweighed’ by the ‘bads’ and that when that point is reached we have the right to say ‘enough’.

            You and I may be at one with rejecting that position on moral grounds, but that doesn’t seem to be what you’re asking. You’re asking about how ‘society’ sees it and I think Pere makes a fine fist of answering the question on those terms.

            Like the abortion issue, there are those who want to make this issue ‘simple’ and divide ‘society’ into ‘them and us’ factions complete with catchphrases and simple definitions when, at the coalface, people are facing ‘grey area’ decisions even if they desperately want to follow church teachings.

            Again, I think Fr Brennan provides one model of not following this path. He takes his opponents seriously and with respect and says, ‘OK, if this is what you want, what will it look like in the law?’, and, ‘Even for those who want euthanasia codified in some way there are real difficulties in providing safeguards’.

            I think Paul Kelly tried to do the same thing in his way on Q and A the other night.

            It’s not as spectacular or easy as sloganeering, but I think that sort of approach is better.

            More importantly still is how we act in terms of providing services for the dying and I think that there are plenty of good examples in this country. My sense is that the hospices run by the church are a gift to the whole community, not just Catholics, and are the most effect witness to our words.

        • Louise

          Not all pro-lifers speak the same way. So, with the example of abortion, many people speak up for the unborn in a way that makes the pro-life position attractive, without compromising the basic position. So, I’m not sure why you insist that it’s all our fault if the message has not got through yet.

          My point about modern discourse was not to say we should do likewise. I was pointing out that as attractive as we make our position sound, there are oud voices who are (illogically and unreasonabley) opposed to our view and who will demonise us. There is nothing we can do about that at all, but my point was that this is how our opponents argue/discuss.

          Please not that I’m referring to hard-core ideologues. I’m not referring to people of good will. Unfortunately, many people of good will have been well and truly sucked in by the emotive rhetoric of our ideological opponents. This is true for most current hot-button issues.

          As far as I’m concerned, the task is to remain on track for presenting our views as attractively as possible, while recognising that we are, in fact, pushing the proverbial uphill.

          • Louise

            I will add here, that it is greatly to the credit of this Pope that he actually managed to get the ordinary English people (whether Catholic or not) to listen to him and he made a favourable impression, I gather.

          • Louise

            All of which is just a long-hand way of noting that I will not beat myself up or my co-religionists for “failing” to get our message across. This Great Heresy (secularism) is a tough nut to crack.

            • Gareth

              It is slightly ironic that people point the finger at people who bother to put in some effort for the pro-life cause and for supposedly ‘losing’ and not getting the message through, when they do not seem very interested really in what is being said to begin with.

              • Tony

                I suppose I could be offended if I actually understood you’re point, Gareth. Lucky, huh?

                • Gareth

                  Being willing to admit you are not the sharpest tool in the shed – I acknowledge your humility, Tons.

                • Louise

                  It is actually a comprehensible remark, Tony. Gareth is saying that there is an irony in people telling pro-lifers we are “failing” at getting our message across, when in many instances, they are not interested in the topic, much less in our message. Although, I don’t know that “irony” is quite the right word.

                  • Tony

                    Very helpful I’m sure, L.

                    Although, I don’t know that “irony” is quite the right word.

                    And I’m under no illusion that the G-man is talking random ‘people’ either.

                    😉

            • Louise

              Peter Hitchens describes why it’s very hard for us to get our message across. Although he is not referring here to pro-life messages specifically, Hitchens notes how the media operate:

              “My complaint against the press and TV pack (I agree that the press alone could not achieve this, but the same structures apply to the BBC and some independent broadcasters) is that they are unanimous, and collective. And that their bias is not openly declared, but concealed, made highly effective through the subtle methods I outline above.”

              (From http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2010/10/notes-and-queries.html, about 3rd para down)

              And the media (being part of The Great Heresy) are pro-choice, as it happens, so, there you go.

  2. Henrietta

    I think we care more about suicide because people who commit suicide are often in the ‘prime’ of their lives and there is nothing physically wrong with them. Importantly, these people can contribute to society

    The Euthanasia debate is often framed around those who have incurable and painful illnesses – who are causing pain to the people around them – These people *apparently* cannot contribute to society.

    I think that is the initial difference, however the line between these two groups is increasingly becoming blurry as we know Dr Death is already promoting euthanasia for depressed teenagers and plenty of people in the euthanasia movement see death as a ‘right’ regardless of whether there is illness or not. Indeed it seems (unfortunately) that our society already sees it this way – which is why suicide is legal.

    One major problem with Euthanasia is that people are going to eventually feel as though the ‘right’ thing to do is to end their lives when they become a burden for others.

    There are so many issues with Euthanasia – and in my opinion, euthanasia should be a ‘non-issue’. No person should be in any modern hospital in pain. Society needs to realize that we all have obligations to each other. We have an obligation to ensure that we can be there for others and we have an obligation to ensure that the suffering are valued members of the human family

    Henrietta

    p.s. I thought I would quote Ian Gawler who has A LOT of experience working with the terminally ill (that is what he has done for thirty years) He said

    “in many years of working with people facing death I have never been confronted by a situation where the urge to provide ongoing compassionate care was outweighed by the pragmatic need for a prematurely induced death.”

    • Henrietta

      “No person should be in any modern hospital in pain.”

      *I have spoken to a palliative care nurse who assures me that people shouldn’t be in pain (even if they have to induce a coma)

    • who are causing pain to the people around them

      that is the uncomfortable answer that I have been toying with (much to Tony’s annoyance).

      plenty of people in the euthanasia movement see death as a ‘right’ regardless of whether there is illness or not.

      And that means we are driven by a culture of despair, rather than hope, of death, rather than life.

      Indeed it seems (unfortunately) that our society already sees it this way – which is why suicide is legal.

      You might be right – but I thought the reason suicide was removed from the crimes list is because a) you can’t prosecute anyone who actually succeeds in perpetrating this crime, b) our society realises that anyone who fails in the attempt to carry out this crime needs help, not punishment.

      “in many years of working with people facing death I have never been confronted by a situation where the urge to provide ongoing compassionate care was outweighed by the pragmatic need for a prematurely induced death.”

      Here’s a thought I proposed to my wife as we were discussing this last night: Given the choice, which would you rather be?:

      1) Someone in great physical pain and discomfort, but knowing that you were loved, cared for, valued, needed and wanted; or

      2) Someone in the prime of health in every way, but hated, despised, lonely, rejected, maltreated, and unwanted.

      • Tony

        Not quite sure how your bottom-line questions inform the discussion, David, but I’ll have a go.

        Assuming that the pain and discomfort were not going to get any better (not sure if that’s a safe assumption), I’d choose #2, with a view to changing my relationships with people (assuming, of course, that that’s possible).

        • jules

          The real bottom line for Christians and all people of God’s will,is that only natural death and God can take a life. No other human has this power, but when they use that power they are actually wrong. Suffering is part of life, just because someone suffers does not give me the green light to kill them. What these people really need is comfort and love and to know that a loving God is with them till the end.

        • Assuming that the pain and discomfort were not going to get any better (not sure if that’s a safe assumption), I’d choose #2, with a view to changing my relationships with people (assuming, of course, that that’s possible).

          Why should your assumption work like that, Tony? Why not assume that your pain and discomfort might get better, whereas your relationships won’t? That’s part of the point I am trying to make: why do we have “hope” for relationship-related depression, but no “hope” for illness-related depression?

          • David,

            I could assume all kinds of things, but you didn’t make it clear what assumptions were ‘allowed’.

            That’s part of the point I am trying to make: why do we have “hope” for relationship-related depression, but no “hope” for illness-related depression?

            I don’t think that’s a reasonable assumption at all.

            I think most people, even those with potentially fatal illness, have ‘hope’ and that’s what keeps them going. I also think most (if there’s time) make the transition from ‘hope’ to ‘acceptance’.

            For others this is a difficult transition and ‘acceptance’ is more like ‘depression’ or hopelessness.

            As I understand it, there is quite a specific form of clinical depression that people with terminal illness can suffer from, but I believe there is a greater awarness of this and appropriate treatment.

  3. Matthias

    I like that quote from Ian Gawler and let us also remember that he was a vet before contracting cancer,and if he was pro eithanasia,you would have expected to see a comparison with how we treat sick animals and humans

  4. Paul G

    I suppose the reason for the difference in attitude is that despair over physical illness is seen as a decision by a person capable of rational thought, whereas depression renders a person incapable of making a rational decision. Of course, the distinction is blurred, which makes it impossible to make a legal distinction. This means that Bob Brown will be disappointed in his quest for euthanasia.

    I watched the (tediously long) monologue by Stephen Fry last night on TV. I know we should not judge, but I think this shouldn’t stop us making observations about correct behaviour. Stephen Fry has talked about his attempt at suicide, and last night he also mentioned his dabbling with LSD and cocaine. Stephen, mate, can I suggest this experiment could not have helped you. I also think a little humility and avoidance of self-delusion is a step in the direction of a healthy attitude to life. These things have to be said.

    • Peregrinus

      The truth is that while we as a society take various measures to discourage suicide and/or or to support those tempted to suicide, we don’t use the criminal law, or any absolute legal obligation, to do this. Suicide [i]used[/i] to be a crime, but it no longer is in any state or territory of Australia, and I think a similar development has been observed throughout pretty much the whole of the western world. Nor do we prevent intended suicide by force (i.e. by committing someone to supervised custody) unless they are suffering from a (diagnosable) mental illness.

      I think there’s two factors at work here:

      First, a general moral rejection of suicide as the controlling impulse behind legislation and policy is being replaced by a general assumption that most suicides are the result of a mental affliction of some kind, such as depression, mental trauma or something more specific. Our first instinct is to treat suicide attempts as a medical crisis, not a criminal crisis. (A parallel development in understanding has seen the church abandon its practice of refusing Christian burial to suicides.)

      Secondly, in so far as there are suicide that are [i]not[/i] accounted for by an unbalanced mind, we no longer believe that the state has the right to prevent suicide merely because it is immoral. If I am, e.g., suffering from an incurable disease which is both progressive and painful, a decision to end my own life may not be moral, but it is rational; it is not unbalanced. It need not proceed from mental illness. Let’s call that “rational suicide” (and, please, let’s not get too hung up on how inappropriate that term looks; it’s just a useful label to refer to suicides which do not proceed from a mental illness or disorder). Paul G points out that the distinction between “rational suicide” and a suicide resulting from pressure, stress, the undue influence of others, etc is a pretty blurry one, and that is a very important point. But let it pass for now.

      And as a society we don’t believe that the state has the right, by force of law, to project onto me moral values which I do not hold, and to require me to observe them, in a matter which affects mainly myself – or, at any rate, which affects me more profoundly than it affects anyone else. Accordingly, we do not forbid rational suicide.

      Of course, my suicide doesn’t just affect me; it affects those who are close to me, and may affect them very profoundly and very negatively. But this, I think, is the other side of an argument that David made earlier. If it would be wrong to euthanize patients to put them out of [i]our[/i] misery (and I agree that it [i]is[/i] wrong), wouldn’t it also be wrong to prevent someone’s suicide because their suicide would contravene [i]our[/i] moral values and cause [i]us[/i] misery and distress?

      So for these reasons we have, for many years now, accepted that people who are mentally competent do have the right to “rational suicide” – not in the sense that it necessarily is or can be a morally right thing to do, but in the sense that we as a society do not have a moral right to use force to stop them from doing it. It would be wrong to pass a law making “rational suicide” a crime; therefore it is not a crime and we do not seek to make it a crime; therefore we have a (legal) right to “rational suicide”.

      That inevitably creates a problem where the circumstances which make it rational for me to wish to die also make it impossible for me to carry out that wish unaided, which is the focus of the euthanasia debate.

      I think one way of nutting through the issues here is to bear in mind the two different ways, already pointed out, in which something can be said to be a “right”. Something may be a “right” in the sense that it would be morally wrong to prevent me from doing it, and yet not a “right” in the sense that I have a moral right to do it which others must protect and support. Thus I have a “right” in the first sense to have meaningless casual sex on a Friday night with an (adult, consenting) partner whom I have just met, but no-one else has any obligation to vindicate that right by finding me an adult consenting partner if I lack the social skills to do it myself. By contrast, my rights to be free from arbitrary arrest, to worship God (or not) as I see fit, not to starve in the midst of plenty, etc, are all rights which others have a positive moral obligation to afford to me if I cannot secure them myself. If I am starving and you have bread to spare, you must share it with me. If I am imprisoned unjustly, you must use what power you have as a citizen to have that injustice redressed.

      I think as a society we accept that “rational suicide” is a right in the first sense, but we are divided as to whether it is a right in the second sense. (The case for euthanasia legislation largely proceeds on the assumption that it is.) And I don’t think this distinction is always well brought out, in part because of the influence of a legalistic moral tradition which asserts that what is immoral is, or ought to be, illegal, and that what is not illegal is not immoral, or at least not seriously immoral. Because I have a “right” to commit suicide, the argument goes, if I am disabled from exercising that right unaided then society must vindicate my right by allowing others to do whatever is necessary to end my life as I wish.

      • Lord help me, Perry, but by half way through that, I found myself thinking: this is all wrong. The entire way you are looking at this question is wrong. I hardly know where to begin – with the notion of “rational suicide” or the notion of “right to commit suicide”, or a stack of other directions from which you come at this issue.

        May I suggest that you are looking at things inside out? That the ideas you express here are not rational, because they are not real?

        If I am, e.g., suffering from an incurable disease which is both progressive and painful, a decision to end my own life may not be moral, but it is rational; it is not unbalanced. It need not proceed from mental illness. Let’s call that “rational suicide” (and, please, let’s not get too hung up on how inappropriate that term looks; it’s just a useful label to refer to suicides which do not proceed from a mental illness or disorder).

        You demonstrate that even as you wrote this, you were aware of the objections to the idea of “rational suicide”. It would appear to me that (Socrates and the Stoics notwithstanding) the philosophical “Tradition” would, on balance, weigh in on the side of the act of suicide being the ultimate act of irrationality. To destroy oneself, to destroy one’s own rational existence, is the epitomy of irrationality, because it is the END of rationality.

        And as a society we don’t believe that the state has the right, by force of law, to project onto me moral values which I do not hold, and to require me to observe them, in a matter which affects mainly myself – or, at any rate, which affects me more profoundly than it affects anyone else. Accordingly, we do not forbid rational suicide.

        Tommy rot. Why does the law forbid certain drugs? Why are our governments so committed to stopping me from smoking? Why can’t I ride my motor cycle – or even my push bike for that matter – without a helmet? We live in a society today where, on the one hand, we demand total individual autonomy, and, on the other hand, we want our governments to act as oversized nannies.

        If it would be wrong to euthanize patients to put them out of [i]our[/i] misery (and I agree that it [i]is[/i] wrong), wouldn’t it also be wrong to prevent someone’s suicide because their suicide would contravene [i]our[/i] moral values and cause [i]us[/i] misery and distress?

        Your logic leads you astray here, my dear friend. We do not oppose euthanasia because it creates in me a “personal feeling” of distress arising from the contravention of my moral values. We oppose euthanasia for the same reason we oppose abortion, and genocide, and other “legalised” forms of killing human beings: because it involves nothing less than the “abolitition of man” (to use C.S. Lewis’ term), the end of true civilisation, the destruction of humanity itself.

        So for these reasons we have, for many years now, accepted that people who are mentally competent do have the right to “rational suicide” – not in the sense that it necessarily is or can be a morally right thing to do, but in the sense that we as a society do not have a moral right to use force to stop them from doing it.

        Again, utter tommy rot. There is not, nor will there ever be, something called “a right to die”, let alone a “right to commit suicide”. Any individual, or any organisation, which devotes itself to the prevention of suicide is an individual or organisation working for the good and well-being of our society. As much as those who do any other charitable work, be it care of orphans and widows, or care of the sick, or care of prisoners, the person who prevents another from committing suicide does A GOOD THING. As loathe as I am to say WWJD, just try to imagine which of the following our Lord may have said of “you blessed of my Father”: “For I was trying to kill myself and you stopped me” or “For I was trying to kill myself and you let me”?

        It would be wrong to pass a law making “rational suicide” a crime; therefore it is not a crime and we do not seek to make it a crime; therefore we have a (legal) right to “rational suicide”.

        The reason, as I have stated elsewhere in this combox string, for striking suicide from the criminal list is because IF the attempted suicide is not successful, our society believes that the one who attempted it is more in need of help than of punishment. The removal of suicide from the criminal list certainly does not imply an individual’s “right” to attempt suicide.

        Something may be a “right” in the sense that it would be morally wrong to prevent me from doing it, and yet not a “right” in the sense that I have a moral right to do it which others must protect and support.

        Perry, this just shows how confused you are. If something is a true human right, both these senses must apply. The fact is that you do not have a human right to “have meaningless casual sex on a Friday night with an (adult, consenting) partner whom I have just met”. To apply the idea of “rights” to this scenario is to cheapen the very currency of language about human rights.

        I think as a society we accept that “rational suicide” is a right in the first sense, but we are divided as to whether it is a right in the second sense.

        Your idea of two categories of “rights” leads you astray in this argument.

        It is one thing to reject the simplistic equations that “what is immoral is, or ought to be, illegal, and that what is not illegal is not immoral, or at least not seriously immoral.” But it is another thing to argue about “rights”, in which case it is ALWAYS immoral to deny someone a human right (unless it is outweighed by the need to preserve a “higher” human right – that is a difficult matter) – eg. by legislation; it is ALWAYS a moral action to support and protect someone’s human rights – by legislation if necessary.

        You have never struck me as a fuzzy thinker before, Perry, but you are very very blurred in your approach to this issue as you have described it here.

        • Paul G

          Hi David,
          I probably am a fuzzy thinker, but it seems to me that the issue here is that most people these days do in fact believe that if something is not illegal, then it is not immoral. For example many (most?) people think the Friday one-night stand is legal and therefore moral and more than that, a loving father has the obligation to arrange a compliant girl for the education of his son.
          The same legal=moral equation is, I believe, behind the push for same sex marriage. People in same-sex relationships want to have a legal marriage in order to be reaffirmed that their behaviour is moral.
          (as an aside, the comment is often made “how can gay marriage devalue 2-sex marriage?” I think the answer is that it already has. There are probably far more people who accept sex outside marriage as both legal and moral than there are supporters of 1-sex marriage.)

          The legal=moral argument is also, I believe behind the complaints by his eminence Geoffrey Robinson about the Vatican. He objects to the Vatican arguing that immoral acts should be made illegal, since he does not believe they are immoral.

          Here is where I get really fuzzy: there seems to be degrees of immorality. The Church seems to accept that sex outside marriage should not be illegal, though it is immoral. But since abortion involves taking of life, it should be illegal, even if a majority of the voters believe it is moral.

          Can anyone bring my fuzziness into focus?

          • I think the reason we accept (as Church) that not all “immoral” acts should be “illegal” is that to make an attempt (as some extreme forms of Sharia law do) to declare all “immoral” acts “illegal” would not only be difficult to define and prosecute, but also ultimately burdensome to society. It is not so much that we, by failing to legislate against such actions, declare such actions to be “moral”, but rather as if we decide to let certain acts “go through to the keeper” (or “Keeper”, if you prefer). Certainly it is a very long bow to draw from a certain act being “allowed” to a certain act being – not only moral but – a “human right”! Just because a certain immoral act is legal, does not mean that we need to support the “right” of others to do it. It simply means that we agree that certain types of immoral action are best combated by means other than the legal process.

            The question then is, what acts do we regard as so immoral that it is imperative for us to legislate against them? Generally in our secular society we take this to be any action that might have an adverse effect upon the rights and liberties of others.

  5. Salvatore

    Actually, I suspect the ‘barriers’ are only put up to prevent suicides that are too distressing, dangerous (or simply inconvenient) to the rest of us; in short, too public. As long as people dispose of themselves discretely I fear we (as a society) are perfectly content for them to do so.

    • Now there’s a disturbing thought…

    • Louise

      That’s a good point, and possibly correct.

      The problem with taking a more compassionate view of people who commit or attempt suicide (and I’m not suggesting we become less compassionate) than in the past, is that it seems as though the people left behind ought *only* to be compassionate towards their loved one, whereas, in reality, it’s horrifying. I mean, surely all their loved ones forever ask themselves, “why didn’t they love me enough to keep living?”

      • Louise

        IOW, killing youself is a truly bad thing and causes not only destruction to yourself, but terrible psychic pain to those you supposedly love. it’s a terrible, terrible thing.