Monday, October 13, 2014

Suicide as a Moral Choice

After a particular headline popped up on my news-feed a few days ago, I've been at a total loss for words. I can hardly imagine what a slap-in-the-face that diagnosis must have been for this young woman who's life is practically JUST BEGINNING, then came the dumb-fuckery from the religious right (as usual) like a stopped-up toilet. Let's just think about this situation for a moment: Pretend you're under 30 years old, just got hitched to the love of your life and then one day - BAM! - terminal cancer diagnosis. You would have had an entire life of experiences to enjoy and decisions to make for yourself, and suddenly you realize that circumstances completely beyond your realm of control have robbed you of all that. The closest comparison that I can think of would be spending your entire life's savings on your dream-house only to discover (too late, mind you) that something is so horribly wrong with it that soon it will no longer be fit for human habitation & is about to be condemned. Well fuck, NOW what are you supposed to do? You've already dumped every penny that you had into the house itself AND moving all your stuff into it, you COULD wait six months and try to save up everything you can but you know it won't be anywhere near enough.

Should you walk away? Or stay for as long as you are able to do so? 

This isn't supposed to be easy, mostly because LIFE isn't supposed to be easy: Struggles and tragedies will happen, but so will joy and accomplishment. What I'm talking about here is another human being making a conscious decision to permanently eliminate all of their own possibilities of any of those things ever happening ever again: Death. As the late George Carlin once put it, "It's the most profound thing that you can do with your life: End it." And on the whole, I don't disagree; especially in the wake of Robin Williams' death, the SECOND TIME in my entire life that I've ever cried over the death of a celebrity. The first, of course, being for George Carlin

Despite what years of Army training tells me, I don't think that suicide is in any way morally wrong. The reason I say this is because ultimately, I have no more right to tell another person what to do with their own bodies than they do for mine: This includes contraception, tattoos, sex, drugs and abortion. During my military career, I intervened in 3 battle-buddy suicide warnings. I did so because I honestly believed that I was doing the right thing for them and for everyone else, and maybe it WAS. Also, I honestly believed that if I KNEW someone was considering doing it, then they ACTUALLY did it, that I could be held liable for DOING NOTHING. Now that I'm out of the military, I'm looking back at my decision and I'm questioning my motivations: I should note that I am not in any way saying nor implying that I wanted for those people to die, so if that's what you're thinking after reading this you can get that foolish notion out of your head RIGHT FUCKING NOW. Looking back, did I really have any right to make such a decision FOR THEM? All three were adults, one suffered from a diagnosed mental illness, and the other two were close friends of mine. One of them is still very much alive, I honestly don't know about the other two. Is it "right" to infringe on another person's bodily autonomy because of the effect that it MIGHT HAVE if that individual chooses to die?

My answer is NO, but even then I still struggle with the idea of 'doing nothing' when a loved one, or even a stranger, is contemplating the act. Decisions require reasons for making them, wether it's getting more ink in one's skin, ending their own life or even what to eat for lunch: Have I thought about the consequences of this specific action? What could happen if this doesn't go the way that I planned? Is there a chance that I haven't considered all of my possible options? Would the cost of this action outweigh any forseeable benefit? 

I don't think that suicide is "selfish" any more than procreating, pursuing an education or joining the military would be: The only person that truly owns your life & your body is YOU, and that means that it's yours to do with as you wish, to whatever end.

And as far as the "coward's way out" idea goes, I have a few problems with that sentiment: For starters, it assumes that you have some sort of special rights or claim over the person who chose to end their own life, like you think you have some grand plan for that person and they just up and decided to flip YOU the final finger. Which, it stands to reason, if you genuinely DID have any control over the lives of others, they wouldn't have been able to commit suicide in the first place. Second, if there are really "as many ways to grieve as there are people in the world," then there are as many reasons to voluntarily choose death that just so happen to be inconvenient for you. Third, you can't own another human being, so you ultimately cannot possibly expect to own their thoughts, feelings, decisions or actions: The odds are good that their reasons for choosing suicide probably had nothing at all to do with you, unless they left a very detailed note specifically saying otherwise (at which point, I should add, many people that DO kill themselves don't always leave notes) so in the end, there's no way you can know for certain. Lastly, Who the fuck do you think you are to speak of the motivations and actions of another human being that can no longer speak for themselves? That's a tad arrogant, no? 

These are just my thoughts and opinions on the matter, I do not necessarily (situation depending) condone nor condemn people for killing themselves. I am sad that Robin Williams is dead, but I also realize that he didn't owe it to me, or anyone, to continue existing for the benefit of others. I am also sad about the terrible predicament that Brittany Maynard has found herself in, but she's made her decision and all I can really do is wish her the best of luck no matter what the outcome. 

And yes, I have lost loved ones to suicide. I still don't have any right to force my own judgements or decisions onto other people, and at the heart of it all, neither do you.

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