The Murder of Oneself

Last Saturday, we discussed about the Healthcare Ethics which it emphasizes dignity and respect for persons. Although the principles in Ethics are already discussed by the reporters, we also review it again and clarify important points. Autonomy, paternalism, standard of best interest, nonmaleficence, beneficence, justice, fidelity, veracity and confidentiality are the topics that we discussed under healthcare ethics. In this blog, I wanted to relate these in just one bioethical issue and I chose Suicide.  

When I was just a little girl, I always seen in television and wonder why people put the gun in his own head, stab a knife to himself, put a rope in his neck, in short, they are trying to kill themselves. My father told me that they were committing what we call as suicide because they were sick of their life right now and they have problems that they can’t handle. My father also told me that life is given by God and He has the right to take away it from us at the right time, not us. That’s why I promised not to do engage into this activity. The second time I heard the word suicide is when I watched the local news channel where the Law student shot a gun to himself because he wasn’t able to pass the bar exam. Then I thought to myself, why would he do that? Why does he have to take away his own life? What if he really doesn’t belong in that profession and God has other plans for him?

Yes, suicide it is. I don’t know why people engage in this stuff when there are more reasons to live for. I’ve read a blog about 6 reasons why people commit suicide.  The top answer is because of depression.  The pain of existence often becomes too much for severely depressed people to bear. I personally do believe that depression is the reason behind suicide.

Why do people commit suicide? I made up my own acronym for the word SUICIDE.

pSychiatric disorder

Upset or depressed

Impulsive

Crying out for Help

Illness

Disrupted family life

Empty feeling

Suicide is the intentional taking of one’s own life. It is the murder of oneself. Suicide is very different from self-sacrifice, avoidable martyrdom, engaging in life risking activities, refusal to prolong one’s life through medical treatment, euthanasia, overdosing and self-inflicted death that is the result of coercion. It is different in such a way that suicide is the voluntary termination of life while the rest aims to perpetuate and defend values.

There are three types of suicide.

Assisted Suicide = Voluntary Action

Facilitated Suicide = Involuntary Action

Unassisted Suicide = Nonvoluntary Action

Now let us relate Suicide in the ethical principles.

Autonomy. By being autonomous and having the freedom to make choices, sometimes we make decisions that might benefit or harm ourselves. Having the right to make choices makes us think we have the right to commit suicide. The claim that we have a right to noninterference regarding suicide holds that suicide is permitted so long as, leaving aside questions of duties to others, it is rationally chosen, or to put it in a Kant’s Ethics, if it is undertaken autonomously. People have the right to choose from themselves that’s why they commit suicide.

Paternalism. Acting in a fatherly manner just like in a traditional family. Many are against paternalism because it violates autonomy or the right to choose with accord to his own will and freedom. Those who against suicide, we can say that they are paternalist. Paternalism is only done for the common good and what is the best for that person.

Beneficence. This ethical principle is doing good, preventing evil and removing evil. We all have this innate beneficence in us that made us prevent doing bad things as possible. To commit suicide is wrong. That’s why we must not commit this because of beneficence.

Non-maleficence. Non-maleficence is to do no harm. Being a non-maleficent student nurse, I will not anyone commit suicide because it will just harm himself. The right thing to do is to provide counseling to that suicidal individual to avoid hurting himself and other people.

Veracity. Means truthfulness. Finding out that my patient will commit suicide, veracity is important because we have to tell the physician our findings to avoid any harm.  Confidentiality and veracity are two contrasting principles. We must be very wise in choosing our move. Remember that what is the best for our client is the most important thing.

Confidentiality. Confidentiality is the ethical principle that requires nondisclosure of private or secret information with which one is entrusted. To commit suicide comes in a person’s thought because of her anxiety and depression. I really think it is better if I will disclose his suicide plans to other health care officials like the physician for he can make goals, plans and interventions for that person. Once the diagnosis has been recognized, the health care professionals will collaborate to help that person prevent suicide. Before notifying the physician, I will help her by being myself and listen to him to give him hope and to avoid committing suicide. Giving someone the opportunity to express his or her feelings can provide relief from loneliness and pent-up negative feelings, and may prevent a suicide attempt. If he changes her mind that easily, there is no need to disclose any information to others.

Suicide, according to the Thomistic Ethics or the Natural Laws Ethics, was an unrepentable sin.  Aquinas (1271) defended this prohibition on three grounds. First, suicide is contrary to natural self-love, whose aim is to preserve us. Second, suicide injures the community of which an individual is a part. Third, suicide violates our duty to God because God has given us life as a gift and in taking our lives we violate His right to determine the duration of our earthly existence.  Suicide violates the natural law God has created to govern the natural world and human existence. This natural law can be conceived of in terms of (a) natural causal laws, such that suicide violates this causal order, (b) teleological laws, according to which all natural beings seek to preserve themselves, or (c) the laws governing human nature, from which it follows that suicide is unnatural. (Pabst Battin, 1996)

Also, the Divine Command Theory can be related to this matter. The Divine Command Theory holds that an act is either moral or immoral solely because God either commands us to do it or prohibits us from doing it, respectively. This views that God, not the human beings, has the moral authority to determine the circumstances of our deaths. We are God’s property, therefore it is wrong to destroy His property without His own will. Another thing is that God bestows life upon us a gift and it would be a mark of ingratitude or neglect to reject that gift by taking our lives. According to Ramsey (1978), we owe God a debt of gratitude for our lives, and so to kill ourselves would be disrespectful or even insulting to God or would amount to an irresponsible use of this gift.

Suicide is wrong because it violates our moral duty to honor the inherent value of human life, regardless of the value of that life to others or to the person whose life it is.

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