Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Celebrating and endorsing suicide - this must stop

Suicide has always been and always should be something of a taboo. Sometimes this rule is honoured in the breach so to speak. People like Welsh academic Frances Medley, who took her own life rather than living with progressive MS tried to affirm, in her last blog entry, that her death was not suicide. Commentator, Wesley Smith has written often about the incongruity and downright double standards in the media in relation to suicide.

There have been examples here in Australia. One that springs to mind is the reporting on the death of Beverley Broadbent where her death was described as a 'rational' suicide. There have been any number of cases where the media had access to the person who planned suicide and the stories invariably seem to celebrate their lives and, if not endorsing their suicide decision, at least portraying something of an a-moral or non-moral position.

While many worthy initiatives in most western nations work tirelessly on suicide prevention, it seems to me that the celebratory media reporting that sometimes even creates a quasi-endorsement of the act of suicide is doing far more harm than good.

Wesley Smith comments on his blog about a recent case in the UK:

Our Pro Suicide Culture: Extolling Joint Suicides

This is the pro suicide culture we are becoming. A UK married couple committed joint suicide to the support of their son and the coroner. From the Daily Mail story:

The son of a couple who died after making a suicide pact kissed them both goodbye and gave them his blessing. Tai Altman said he knew his parents Raphael, 69, and Tamar, 72, who had been married for 46 years, were going to kill themselves…

They were both supporters of Dignity in Dying, and had marked October 3, 2013 in their diary

with the single word – ‘depart’.

Raphael was dying of cancer. Tamar killed herself, in part, because she didn’t want to move:

Tai Altman said the family spent two days saying goodbye, before he gave his parents – who were both in poor health – his blessing.

’I told her she could move here and be with us and her grandchildren but she was not without her own physical ailments. She wasn’t about to relocate 500 miles. I didn’t argue about it.’
Of course not.

And get this from the coroner!

Assistant coroner Peter Clark said the couple had made a careful decision to end their lives in a ‘dignified’ way. Recording verdicts of suicide, he said: ‘It is clear they intended to die together as they lived together.’
You either get why this is so very wrong, or you don’t. I am out of words.


  1. Wrong for you, Wesley Smith. Not wrong for them, obviously! They deserve applause for having the courage to end their lives together, on a relatively happy note, painlessly and without anguish. I have met so many elderly widowed women and men who wish they had died before, or at the same time, as their spouse. I am talking about people who feel this way despite lots of family support, community support and friends. Those things cannot take the place of a loving partner you've been with for many decades. What is so dishonourable about someone deciding they will not go through years of loneliness against a background of failing health? Seems to me you lack empathy.

  2. Nic, sorry mate, you display a lack of empathy in your comments. People as they age and lose a spouse etc., often lament the loss and have thoughts of dying - even expressing a wish to do so. But this is more often than not a cry for help; a need to make sense fo their circumstances; for affirmation and value. What you suggest in simply waving tem on to their death is cruel and unthinking.