community relate to the problem of suicide? Should there be any legal constraints at all?
Suicide is illegal in the United States, and in that sense, it is a problem because thousands of people commit suicide every year. However, it is not clear why suicide is necessarily immoral or why it should be a crime, especially in cases involving those who are suffering from terminal disease, intractable pain, or for whom life has lost all quality or meaning. On the other hand, there may be good reasons why certain legal constraints should apply, such as in connection with soliciting assistance from others or assisting others.
The principal ethical problem presented is that to justify legal prohibition, the state should be able to articulate some objective rationale for interfering with the autonomous choices of mentally competent people. Naturally, the state has an interest in preventing people from committing suicide in ways that could cause harm to others. The state also has a rationale for prohibiting assisting others in committing suicide, although, arguably, not in all types of cases and circumstances. In the U.S., the fact that the prohibition of suicide has roots in religious beliefs is an important issue, because, in principle, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits any religious basis for secular law (Dershowitz, 2002; Humphry, 2010).
Ethical Theories and Ethical Principles
Deontological ethics would support permitting suicide because it can be framed as a moral rule, such as rule that nobody has a justification for interfering with the private decision of another competent person to determine whether or not his life is worth continuing, from his . According to deontological ethics, an appropriate moral rule might be that no person should be required to live longer than he wants to as long as he is mentally competent to make that decision and as long as he does not harm or put anybody else at risk in the process (Beauchamp & Childress, 2009). Virtue ethics would support the legality of providing assistance to anybody who was competent to make the decision to end his life who required assistance, as long as the genuine motivation of the person assisting was to help the person and not to hurt him or profit personally (Beauchamp & Childress, 2009).
The ethical principles involved are the autonomy of the individual, beneficence, non-malfeasance, and justice. More specifically, autonomy refers to the right of the individual to only his life. Beneficence refers to the motivation of legal regulation and would prohibit laws that prevent a person in pain from escaping that pain through suicide if that was his desire. Non-malfeasance would prohibit assisting anybody commit suicide for personal gain or animosity or for any other similar reason. Justice would require balancing all of the issues and concerns for the purpose of doing what is right for the individual and for society (Beauchamp & Childress, 2009).
In my opinion, any competent person has the moral right to end his life, especially to escape pain and discomfort that cannot be assuaged through medical intervention. At the same time, society should provide mental health counseling to prevent suicide among people making decisions because of or medical issues such as depression. I cannot imagine the ethical justification for prohibiting someone suffering from excruciating pain or dying a slow death after medical conditions have robbed life of any quality or enjoyment. That is especially true to whatever extent the law in this country was originally derived from any religious values, because the nation was originally founded by those escaping mandatory religious affiliation and because church and state are supposed to be separate under the U.S. Constitution (Dershowitz, 2002; Humphry, 2010).
Beauchamp, T.L. And Childress, J.F. Principles of Biomedical Ethics, (6th Edition).
: New York. 2009.
Dershowitz, a.M. Shouting Fire: Civil Liberties in a Turbulent Age. Touchstone:
New York. 2002.
Humphry, D. Final Exit: The Practicalities of Self-Deliverance and Assisted Suicide for the Dying. Random House: New York. 2010.