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Suicide as a rational decision

Suicide is often assumed to be connected with some sort of irrational action, perhaps when someone suicides they were in the grip of clinical depression; or perhaps people who heard about the suicide might jump to the conclusion that it was brought on by depression.

This page is about making a rational decision to suicide, or not.

This page written 2018/03/09, last edited 2020/11/20
Contact: David K. Clarke – ©

Humans in good mental health and of reasonable intelligence are organisms capable of comprehending their own existence, and of deciding on when that existence becomes sufficiently burdensome that it is no longer desirable.


Some pertinent quotes

"Making someone die in a way that others approve, but the dying person believes to be a horrifying contradiction of his life, is a devastating, odious form of tyranny."
Ronald Dworkin; philosopher and scholar

"The only part of the conduct of any one, for which [a citizen] is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign."
John Stuart Mill, in On Liberty

"... suicide is the most basic right of all. If freedom is self-ownership—ownership over one's own life and body—then the right to end that life is the most basic of all. If others can force you to live, you do not own yourself and belong to them."
Thomas Szasz (the above quote is taken from Wikipedia.)
No one else, no society, no religious group, no government, has any right to interfere in that decision. Whether or not a 'terminal illness' is involved is irrelevant; we are all going to die, it's just a matter of time.

Before ending his (or her) own life, however, the person has to consider the impact of his decision on those who are dear to him, and to whom he may be dear, and any who may be dependent upon him (children, spouse).

The relevant questions he must ask are:

  • Am I enjoying life?
  • If not, is that a temporary condition? Depression? Will the condition improve with time?
  • Am I a net asset to, or burden on, society and those around me?
  • What impact would my suicide have on my family? Can I prepare them for that?
Advanced age and deteriorating health and fitness may well be a factor in whether a person decides he has had enough. Living with pain is pretty miserable.

Why might a rational person decide to end his or her life?

I am writing this section from a personal point of view. I can imagine wanting to end my life for the first of these reasons or some combination of them all.
  • Advancing age, declining physical and/or mental health and/or increasingly frequent, consistent and intense pain;
  • Disillusionment and disgust for my fellow Man:
    • For the greedy, who have far more than most but can never have enough;
    • For powerful people like Gina Rinehart, Angus Taylor, Clive Palmer and Rupert Murdoch who use their power for evil;
    • For government, which is often dominated by people who seem to have no ethical standards (for example, the Morrison government of Australia);
    • For the great majority, for their apathy, selfishness, short-sightedness (it is, of course, the common people who vote the government into power), and for putting their selfish interests before the good of the planet;
    • For the general neglect and lack of caring by the great majority about the obvious unsustainability of our current way of life.
  • Frustration:
    • At trying to make the world a better place but being lonely in that endeavour;
    • At the many stupid people (or are most of them dishonest rather than stupid?) who either don't believe that anthropogenic climate change is happening or that it is a serious problem;
    • At seeing millions of people who morn the war-dead yet do nothing to try to stop future wars;
    • At seeing well meaning people waste their time on causes that are trivial and even foolish rather than on one or more of the many very urgent and important causes that they could work on (an example of a foolish cause, opposing the proposed low-medium level radioactive waste repository in South Australia);
    • At the billions of people who accept the religion delusion (or other delusions), in the total lack of any supporting evidence, and in a world in which rational and responsible action is increasingly needed;
  • I wouldn't want to go on living if I become a burden on society and can no longer contribute meaningfully to the community in which I live. (As of November 2019 I do voluntary work in the Clare Gleeson Wetlands, revegetating the 'Central Park' in Crystal Brook and at Bowman Park near Crystal Brook.)

Related pages

On this site

Ethics generally

Some thoughts on death

Some thoughts on euthanasia and assisted suicide

Milestones in the development of human society. The recognition that humans can, and should be allowed to, choose their own time of dying is a milestone that hasn't been achieved yet, but we are getting there.

External sites

Exit International; support for this wanting to end their lives.

Death by design: "We can chose how we live – why not how we leave? A free society should allow dying to be more deliberate and imaginative"; An article on Aeon by Daniel Callcut

Desire for suicide is, sadly, sometimes rational; Sarah Edelman, clinical psychologist, 2014/08/28, Sydney Morning Herald.

Dying with Dignity, NSW; there are also branches of Dying with Dignity in other Australian states and territories.

The Australian Greens; Dying with Dignity