To the Editor, The Australian.
Do the young and depressed have the right to suicide? (Australian 11 Oct). Wrong question. We should ask, rather, when is it reasonable to choose to end one’s life.
The ancient Stoics thought it reasonable if circumstances prevented a person from living a virtuous life; Cato committed suicide rather than live under political tyranny. John Stuart Mill famously asserted that “Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign” and David Hume thought suicide was like “becoming a total recluse”, perhaps regrettable but not immoral.
Why do we assume someone wanting to end their life is necessarily irrational? Why should freedom not extend to the freedom to choose when to bow out of this life – and the means to do so gracefully?
Hard to avoid the conclusion that our society’s obsessive objection to rational suicide derives from the religious idea of the sacredness of human life, even to the extent of overriding a rational person’s own reasonable wishes.
Time to challenge this idea.