Is suicide a basic human right?


It is a completely valid decision by a person in sound mind to choose to end their own life. It applies to the ill and the well, it applies to prisoners and the free, it applies to thirty-year-olds and to centarians.

It is a decision that applies to one person only, and is a decision that should not be stigmatized or restrained by society, family, friends, or the well-meaning masses.

If a person in sound mind has decided that life is no longer worth living, that’s their decision. If a person who has decided that takes action, that’s their action. Not my decision, not my action, not my business.

Absolutely. It’s every persons right to choose the answers to such fundamental questions.


Successful suicide is an incontrovertable right. Unsuccessful, not so much.

Of course, it’s still a really bad idea.


It doesn’t apply to just one person, though. If a member of my immediate family decided to commit suicide, I’d be absolutely devastated. If my wife died through any means, my daughter would grow up motherless–it’d be among the worst emotional experiences that could be inflicted on her by anyone.

That’s not to say that it’s not a basic human right, but if it is, it is in spite of its horrible effect on other people, not because it only applies to one person.

While I believe that it is, the fundamental flaw of the argument in the OP is the question of what makes someone “of sound mind”. If you define suicidal intentions as being “of unsound mind”, then the argument falls flat.

You need to start from the supposition that for some people, life just ain’t worth livin’. Until you can prove that, you can’t show that a person can be of sound mind and suicidal.

It’s a basic human ability. As to whether it’s valid, it’s such a grave decision that it shouldn’t be trivialised to the point that any suicide is uncondemned: like most things it has consequences for others, and it’s probably not a good route for it to be such a purely personal decision — “It’s my life and I’ll do what I want with it !” — that children top themselves for emotional reasons that matter not at all ( such as failing an exam or a fight with a loved one ).
There’s not much that can be done to punish someone who has committed suicide; but some societal stigma is necessary to avoid life being merely a commodity and society devolving into a death-cult of life denying culture.
Still, in some individual circumstances it may be the only honourable way out. But these circumstances are rare. And if you are able, just chuck everything and create a new living elsewhere rather than succumbing to despair.

I think there shouldn’t be any legal barriers to someone of sound mind deciding to terminate their life. I can think of many scenarios under which it’s probably a more or less normal desire, too, and not indicative of any sort of mental illness.

We do have a responsibility to render aid and attempt to help those that are suicidal because of mental illness.

The other major moral trap being the subjective “not worth living”.

The question in the OP is pointless. Even in the most totalitarian societies, individuals can act on their wish to end their life with relative freedom. So is it the question whether this act should have formal social acceptance that the OP question is about?

Probably not.

That depends. You’re presuming that human emotion and our modern American family dynamic are representative of what all is possible in the world. It’s theoretically possible that you could develop a society where people are happy for those who die.

You wouldn’t be devastated if they died of a heart attack?

Certainly family and friends will grieve, but suicide is as perfectly valid a reason of death as any other.

Part of my argument is that you can’t define it so. Suicidal intentions do not prima facie indicate an unsound mind.

Yes, of course it’s subjective. It’s the view of the person living that life.

People on death row in the United States are guarded against suicide. Why?

Then it should be irrelevant for that person contemplating the act, if the act is considered accepted by society or not.

Because suicide is considered a self-destructive act that people on death row may choose to do because of desperation or other intense psychological pressure or loss of control.

A legitimate purpose for your OP question would be if each and every one of all the individuals living in a society would be restricted from any action that would end their own life. Something like all of us being taped down to a plank with duct-tape so we cannot harm ourselves. This is not the case, therefore the purpose of the original question is not related with how society deals with this act.

Do you have a policy issue you’d like to discuss? I find that broad pronouncements about “basic human rights” and the like aren’t useful in deciding issues on a brass tacks level.

So, as an example, let’s just deal with prisoners: Do you think all people who are being detained by the government should be allowed to kill themselves if they want to, with no exceptions?

Would you consider it permissible to take steps to discourage suicide? Putting people on suicide watch, for instance?

Or they may choose to do it rather than be executed, and what’s wrong with that?

Nonsense. As is readily demonstrated in the few answers to this thread, the way society deals with it is by societal pressure that it is a bad thing, even for Hermann Goering.

Of course I would be, and if anyone gave them a heart-attack on purpose, I’d be really pissed at them. If a heart-attack was capable of comprehending a moral argument, I’d try to persuade them not to kill my family member.

I don’t know what you mean by “valid” in that sentence. Of course suicide will kill just as truly as any other means of death; that’s not in dispute. What’s in dispute is whether suicide has a devastating impact on people other than its immediate target, and whether that impact is something that should be considered.

In a similar vein, I have a right to shoot up heroin. Given my family’s love for me and dependence on my income, it’d be totally immoral of me to exercise that right.

It depends. Someone who was just arrested for the first time, and their whole life has just changed in a moment, I would view as not being in sound mind, and I’d attempt to stop them.

Someone who’s sentenced to death, or life, or after some time finds prison life unendurable, that’s up to them.

“Wrong” is another vague term we use without a consistent meaning.

Society assumes that human life, even if random, can be meaningful or purposeful or useful or at least not irrelevant.

The act of taking one’s own life is irrefutably related to the result of severe mental stress. Living things - in general - don’t kill themselves. That much is apparent.

In extreme situations like people on death row or people with terminal illness the circumstances are very different than an average human being living a healthy life.

If you want to ask about suicide and how society deals with it you have to start with an average human being, not one in an extreme situation.


Buddhist monks who set themselves on fire were not under severe mental stress. And that is just one of the more obvious examples.

The only possible way that you can argue such a position is via that circular reasoning that killing oneself is *proof *of severe mental stress.

Ahh, the argument from nature.

Living things never engage in anal sex, they never build aeroplanes and they never write things down.

So all those activities must also be signs of severe mental stress. Right?