When Is Suicide Justified?

Suicide horrifies me. The prospect of choosing to end one’s own life is shocking to me. But to be fair, I have to ask myself under what conditions might suicide be acceptable. As I think it through, it seems to me that taking one’s own life might be warranted only in the following two circumstances:

—When one is about to die anyway. When death is near and there are good reasons not to prolong life, one may justifiably choose to die. If one is in great pain or extending one’s life is a great burden on one’s loved ones, choosing death might be warranted.

When death is the only escape from being forced to reveal information that will harm others. When captured by enemy forces and being subjected to torture to force the revelation of information that will lead to the death of others, one can choose to end one’s own life.

To my way of thinking, there are no other justifications for suicide. Killing oneself is still killing—in other words a form of murder. It is not defensible as a way to escape unhappiness. We are morally required to live as long as we can, to do what fulfills us and makes us happy, to care for others, and to do all we can, for as long as we live, to help others.

I believe to the depths of my soul that the way out of unhappiness is helping others. If your existence has lost all meaning and unhappiness has become a way of life, find someone worse off than you who needs your help and help them. The greatest rewards in my life have been the result of helping others.

Yes, life can inflict what feels like unbearable sorrows. But it is incumbent upon us all to bear those sorrows and go on living. And the greatest source of happiness is doing unto others as they would have done unto them.

If my readers see things differently or believe that there are other justifications for suicide beyond the two I cited, please comment.

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