Is voluntarily becoming totally amnesiac a form of suicide?

This is inspired by a story I’m writing, but I won’t go into any details because I don’t feel like it and it’s unnecessary anyway.

Imagine someone who hates his life and history with a passion. Let’s stipulate this person has good reason to feel as he does; he’s suffered horrible physical, emotional, and sexual abuse all through his childhood that has left him with severe & long-lasting PTSD.

Now imagine that, through some magical means, this person is given the opportunity to erase all of his memories. The process will take only a moment, and when the person awakes, he will be a tabula rasa. No memory with any emotional connotation will ever be accessible to that person’s conscious or unconscious mind again. Since we’re talking magic, the person retains his language, motor, and other such skills; it’s just that he has no memory of his identity before the engram wipe, no idea how he acquired the ability to speak, ride a bicycle, use a computer, etc.

Is undergoing such a process suicide? Why or why not?

I’d say yes. What makes a person an individual? Their personality. What forms the personality? Their life. So you get rid of all that and that individual is gone.

I agree; your memories are what make you, you. No memories, no you.

No. Suicide means dead. He’s not dead.

I don’t think it would be ethical, but I’m going to have to take the descriptivist line on this and say since no death is involved that it’s not suicide.

I propose a new word. How about egocide?

I don’t think it would be ethical, but I’m going to have to take the descriptivist line on this and say since no death is involved that it’s not suicide.

I propose a new word. How about egocide?

It depends on what it means to be genuinely suicidal. Does a suicidal person desire to stop living his life in particular but hold a hypothetical willingness to live another, better life, or does he have no desire to live any life at all? I don’t know the answer, but I think that it’s a relevant question.

In terms of the story, two characters argue over whether it’s effectively suicide. My author-external position is that it is might as well be.

Why do you say it’s unethical?

There is still the ceasing to be of a persona. What is that, if not the end of a life?

I see it as a form of abandonment (of one’s family, etc.), but not of suicide, since there’s no death.

Is it ok if you have two heads and only make yourself amnesiac in parts of each one? Being president of the galaxy probably makes about anything ok though.

Well, it’s damage against the self. I find it unethical the same way hitting yourself on the head with a hammer or cutting yourself would be. Even if the person has had the most fucked up life in the world, I don’t think suicide or amnesia is the solution.

I vote that it is a form of suicide. That individual would cease to exist, even though the same body would continue to function.

There’s an episode of Babylon 5 that is somewhat analogous. I do not remember all of the details, but the gist of the story was that the death penalty had been replaced with a “Death of Personality” mind-wipe process. A convicted felon (possibly limited to murderers or other death-eligible offenders) would have all traces of his former personality/identity completely eradicated, and then spend the rest of his days working as a monk to atone for his crime…

Yes, he is. HE is dead; just the body remains. It’s the same principle as treating the brain dead as legally dead and acceptable to dismantle for their organs; the flesh is still alive, but not the person.

“‘The old me is dead!’ he raved, ‘Killed himself! The dead shouldn’t hang about trying to interfere with the living!’”.

Morally ok or not, sounds like he’s willing to describe it with the language of suicide.

Well, the body is not dead, and when people talk about suicide they are talking about the physical body. Of course, the OP said ‘a form of suicide,’ so I suppose that’s true since it is metaphorically a type of death.

It could be described metaphorically as a form of suicide, but it isn’t literally suicide and would not legally be considered suicide either.

If your character intended to kill himself but wound up an amnesiac, comatose, or with severe brain damage instead, this would be referred to as a suicide attempt and not an actual suicide. Similarly, if someone else maliciously beat him over the head and wound up causing amnesia then that wouldn’t be “murder”. People with amnesia aren’t referred to as being “dead”, nor are people with Alzheimer’s.

Someone who knew your character might say “The man I knew is dead!”, but I think most people would consider this a rather melodramatic way of putting things. If he were brain dead that would be a different story, but if the guy is still breathing and his brain is still active then he hasn’t “died” or “committed suicide” in the usual sense of these words.

We’re comparing two distinct scenarios.

Scenario 1: Someone voluntarily has his memory destroyed.

Scenario 2: Someone voluntarily has his life destroyed, including his memory and every other aspect of life.

These two scenarios share at least one property (voluntary destruction of memory) but differ in other properties (voluntary destruction of everything else). Does it really matter whether we reserve the term “suicide” for the stronger scenario only? The facts are what they are, and I think the labeling is a non-issue.

But he gets to start all over again and make new memories. It’s less like a death and more like a rebirth.