A brief interlude before I get back to animal rights. I'm much more interested in our particular type of animal.
I was talking with some people the other night about a legal case that one of them had heard being discussed on Radio 2. A woman had swallowed a load of pills to kill herself and then phoned up a friend and asked him to sit with her while she died. He did so, and has been charged with being an accessory to murder.
The talk turned to whether one is duty bound in such circumstances to intervene by calling for medical help. It somewhat surprised me, given that all people in the room had recovered from episodes of serious depression, that there was some doubt. The argument given was that while they had survived - in large part through the support of friends and family, another person's situation might be so lonely and desperate that they might never get better. And psychiatric services are notoriously hit and miss. Some get an excellent service. Many more fall through the cracks. In such circumstances, since the pain of depression is so severe, it might be cruel to force them to live on.
My counter to this is that we simply don't have the information to make an informed judgement from case to case. We might assume that they won't get better. We might assume that they will never get social or medical support...but we simply don't know. Nevertheless, we have to decide one way or another. My own position is that I would want to be saved. So if someone tells us they're planning on suicide, we call a doctor as a reflex action.
- I don't blame the guy. He was trying to do the right thing. He was wrong.
- Suicide is not a cry for help. It's an expression of pain. Suicides want to kill themselves.
- It's futile to try to identify a cause: "What made him do it?". The answer's "Everything" or "Nothing" or "Bad chemicals on the brain." It's an illness. Call an ambulance!
- Assisted suicide in the case of nasty, terminal, untreatable and humanity-sapping illness is a different matter. In the case of something like Motor Neurone Disease or Huntington's Chorea, we do have enough information to go on. Individuals should be allowed to choose their fate.
- Who's Thomas Szasz? The most dangerous psychiatrist wever - with the possible exception of Radovan Karadžić.
- In all discussions such as this, I am duty bound to post contact details for The Samaritans. If you have come across this post, are feeling depressed and are thinking of harming yourself, Contact them right away. They're there for you.. If you know somebody else in this position, please do your best to get them medical help.
Sorry to, like, totally bum everyone.