Pushing Suicide as Merely a ‘Choice’

By Wesley J. Smith

The focus on suicide prevention continues to erode. In Ozy — which bills itself as being about “fresh stories and bold ideas”— self-described “reporter” Molly Fosco applauds that suicidal depression is increasingly being looked upon as a “terminal illness,” and hence, opines that we should view the suicides of the deeply depressed as a normal part of dealing with the disease process.

From, “Suicidal Tendencies Should be Treated Like a Terminal Disease”:

If a family member has a terminal illness and decides to stop treatment to end their suffering, we’re far more likely to understand. Sure, it might be upsetting that they don’t want to keep “fighting,” but ultimately, we agree that ending their suffering is more important.

We should think of suicide the same way.

This is the concept of “rational suicide” — a minority view in the mental health professions–that claims a psychiatrist/psychologist/social worker should “permit” or validate suicides they believe are “rational,” and only unequivocally oppose those they deem “irrational.” Talk about an abandonment of the anguished person by the one person who might be able to make the difference between life and death!

Alas, some in the suicide prevention community apparently want us to look upon suicide in a non-judgmental way.

[Dr. Julie] Cerel [president of the American Association of Suicidology] thinks the culture around suicide in the U.S. is starting to shift. For example, the American Psychological Association no longer uses the word “commit” when referring to suicide. Instead, “died by suicide” is now used. “‘Committed’ really connotes that someone committed a crime or committed a sin,” Cerel says. “It’s very pejorative.”

Ponder this: If someone stays alive because suicide is seen widely as wrong, isn’t that a good thing? Doesn’t the impact of such “peer pressure” save lives? Why in the world would we want to remove an important impediment to committing suicide? (Yes, I will continue to use that term because I want people to live.)

Of course, Fosco is all on board with the word engineering that will open the door to more suicides:

And that’s the thing. We shouldn’t look at those who die by suicide as bad, selfish or sinful. Of course, it’s devastating to lose someone you love, and it’s normal to be angry. But we need to try harder to put ourselves in their shoes. If every day is unbearable and death is the only way to relieve the pain, perhaps we shouldn’t think of suicide as a choice.

“I think more people are realizing that those who are suicidal aren’t making a choice to end their lives,” Cerel says. “They’re trying to get out of completely intolerable circumstances.”

“Bad, selfish, sinful,” what have you, isn’t the point behind disfavoring all suicides. Saving lives is the point!

Moreover, Cerel makes the exact argument that Compassion and Choices (formerly, the Hemlock Society) makes about why doctor-assisted suicide of the terminally ill should not be considered suicide, and instead be known by the gooey euphemism, “aid in dying.”

The purpose is to normalize self-killing. If this deflection succeeds — and expands, as this article promotes — pretty soon we will do away with the accurate term “suicide” altogether so that no one feels negatively about a self-killing. It’s all just “choice,” don’t you know.

Not surprisingly, the American Association of Suicidology has opined that the terminally ill asking for assisted suicide should not receive suicide prevention. Cerel’s statement just furthers the organization’s betrayal of suicidal people.

Fosco gives lip service to suicide prevention. But that’s all it is. Approving some suicides — as she clearly does — is akin to telling a smoker to use filtered cigarettes instead of quitting, making self-harm more, rather than less, likely.

Fosco and Cerel are practitioners of the dark advocacy approach that I call “terminal nonjudgmentalism.” By promoting a neutral stance on self-destruction, they are pushing society in a pro-suicide — or at the very best, only anti-some suicides — direction.

Culture of death, Wesley? What culture of death?

Editor’s note. Wesley’s great columns appear at National Review Online and are reposted with his permission.