Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The real story behind suicide II

I posted last year on the disturbing story of a young man in the United States who committed suicide on live internet TV, egged on by viewers. Standing on my Head carries a similar story reported in The Telegraph about a young man with a history of depression and suicide attempts, who jumped to his death after being taunted by a baying mob. A police negotiator said that he was 'within inches' of saving Shaun Dykes when one particular taunt proved too much for him and he jumped, dying instantly of serious injuries. As I said about the last case:

At the heart of such an act lies loneliness and despair, not compassion. The lies the euthanasia movement tout fall apart when people are confronted with this ugly reality, so far removed from love, dignity and personal autonomy that it is almost obscene to use such language in this context. Commentators who self-righteously claimed in defence of the assisted-suicide documentary that people need to 'get to grips' with the reality of suicide may have a point. The public need to lose the sentimental image the euthanasia movement has given to suicide, of a person dying peacefully and contentedly in the arms of a loved one. They need to see suicide for the unbearable tragedy it is.

These cases show extreme examples of a person being encouraged to end their life, but a question we must all ask ourselves is; to what extent are all people who choose to end their lives being 'persuaded' to do so by others, directly or indirectly? How can doctors, in countries where euthanasia is legal, be sure that the patient requesting help to die is doing so of their own free will, without it being suggested or hinted to them that it is the best decision?

This is not an attempt at scaremongering either. It has been acknowledged by doctors and ethics committees exploring euthanasia that it is almost impossible to be sure that a person seeking help to die is doing so entirely of their own free will and the euthanasia movement does not have an answer to this.