The View from Hell

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Archive for the ‘bad suicides’ Category

The Public Thinks (Or Not) About Suicide

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In a pair of comment threads, anonymous citizens confront two police suicides: one about an officer who killed himself after he was involved in a car accident that killed a fellow officer, and one about an officer who killed himself after he was involved in a deadly tasering incident.

Written by Sister Y

October 2, 2008 at 3:22 pm

The Kind of Suicide Prevention I Can Get Behind

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I’m still on a break, but wanted to briefly mention a study that exemplifies the kind of suicide prevention I fully support. The study, published in the Archives of Opthalmology (July 2008), links suicide with low vision – but only when health is poor in general. Risk of suicide is elevated (though not statistically significantly) for individuals with low vision only, but is significantly elevated for individuals who are in poor health and have visual impairment – well above the increased risk for individuals with poor health alone.

The intervention proposed by the authors of the study is not to lock up everyone with low vision, or to have their doctors ask them humiliating questions to check for depression, but, shockingly, “better treatments for the underlying conditions that cause visual impairment.” (The authors also encourage eye doctors to be aware of the increased risk and provide appropriate referrals, but the primary recommendation of the study seems to be better treatment of visual problems.)

This is the kind of suicide prevention that even one who believes strongly in a right to suicide can support. This sort of study identifies specific types of suffering that lead to suicide, and recommends actually relieving the specific types of suffering. If this type of intervention were implemented – if old, sick people got better vision care – suicides would likely be prevented, but they wouldn’t be the suicides of people determined to die, people whose true end is death. The suicides averted by this type of intervention would be bad suicides – suicides by people who value their lives but suffer so greatly from a specific problem (or problems) that they choose to end their lives. There is nothing humiliating or coercive about better vision care. I would love to see more studies like this, and more interventions of this type.

Written by Sister Y

July 14, 2008 at 10:37 pm

Bankruptcy Suicides

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I have just watched the clear, insightful, completely tragic documentary called Maxed Out, detailing problems with credit in America, from consumer debt to national debt. The documentary presents an accurate economic picture – it manages not to be dumbed down or reductive, though it’s certainly aimed at a popular audience. With that in mind, the most tragic element of the movie is its presentation of three suicides that were almost certainly committed because of debt.

I am in favor of a right to suicide. These suicides – suicides by people who apparently very much valued their lives and ended them in response to a terrible, I would argue unfair situation – are tragedies and should never have happened. These are, to put it simply, bad suicides, in the sense that in a just world, they would not occur.

Coercive suicide prevention is not the answer. In East Germany, hiding statistics of suicides and re-terming suicides “self-murders” only served to mask the suffering taking place in that country. Force feeding of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay only serves to mask the suffering there. Similarly, coercive suicide prevention policies only serve to mask the true suffering that various policies create. The only answer is to change the policies and situations that create suffering so great that individuals feel the proper course is suicide, despite greatly valuing their lives.

On a related note, I have a position statement regarding consumer credit: While the decisions of individuals should be honored, even where they appear irrational, businesses that deliberately exploit cognitive bias of individuals to get them to enter into transactions thereby create a negative externality, and should be forced to absorb the externality. And secondly: most “sales” practices deliberately exploit cognitive bias of individuals, and therefore act against perfect information. (Criticism, links to articles and information, and things like that are, of course, encouraged.)

Written by Sister Y

June 9, 2008 at 9:52 pm