Question: Suicide and Responsibility


Are there any circumstances where we could reasonably say that someone might owe it to other people to kill themselves?


4 Responses to “Question: Suicide and Responsibility”

  1. 1 ace

    I think a response to this question would depend entirely on the circumstances involved. If a terminally sick man felt that his continuation of life would put a high burden on those around him, he may feel that he owes it to his family/doctors to reduce that burden quickly by committing suicide. However, in the consideration of what we owe others, we must always know their feelings on the matter as well. Perhaps the doctors feel that a continuation of life for the man is worth their sacrafice for him. Maybe the man’s family would be very upset if he were to end his own life. The issue of owing/burden must be considered from all interested angles. In this case it would be wrong for the man simply to commit suicide based on a percieved debt to those around him.

    In the case of a soldier who throws himself on a grenade in order to save his platoon, I would posit that they all knew the risks involved in warfare, and so the feelings of those involved would be much easier to ascertain. However, that still doesn’t mean the soldier ‘owes’ the others his life, but that his actions represent a gift that he gives to them without any prior necessity to do so.

    If I were to suggest a situation in which someone truly did owe others his life, maybe in the case of a man who intentionally sabbotages a Nuclear reactor so that it would kill alot of people, and the only way to stop it would be to send the man in to undo what he did, and by doing so he would die, in this case the weight of debt he owed the others would justify his suicide. All of those involved in this scenario would probably expect the man’s life to be forfit after the actions he committed.

  2. 2 August

    Unless you don’t believe in the death penalty, or that an eye for an eye is fair justice. I wouldn’t feel that the man owed it to me to kill himself to save my life, just because it’s his fault I was going to die. It would be entirely his fault, but I wouldn’t say I felt he owed me his life.

    Anyway, I think this question has to be looked at from the person who is committing suicide’s point of view, not from people around.

  3. 3 oinos_kai_alathea

    But the person who is committing suicide isn’t the only person who would be effected by his/her suicide. As ace mentioned, those around them – family, doctors, etc – each are effected in different ways and feel that the burden they carry for him is worth the benefits that they reap by their relationship with him – even if he himself cannot identify that benefit.

    Also, as the question is about whether someone could possibly owe it to others to comit suicide, then one has to consider those others as well as the individual in question.

  4. 4 ace

    Generally speaking I find the eye for eye justice system usally makes a situtation worse. Unregulated retaliations tend to see a escalation in violence as opposed to ending it, as can be seen, for example, in isolated instances of gang crime where a beating leads to a stabbing which then leads to a larger spiralling of agression on both sides. It can also be seen in our justice system where an emphasis on punishment as apposed to rehabilitation misses the reasons why crimes are committed in the first place.

    However, I don’t believe that the eye for eye philosophy can be disregarded in all cases, especially when it becomes necessary for immediate or emergency reactions, such as in the case in my first post above, or when the security of a nation or large group is at stake. Exactly how the eye for eye is carried out, and how effective it may be depends on those applying it however.

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