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Preventing Teen Suicide? An Unethical Intervention in Autonomy?

Tagging this view onto my previous arguments about Physician Assisted Suicide, I think it’s also important to think about the permissibility of interfering with attempted suicide cases, even though they’re hairy.

I anticipate this topic potentially going to a dark place pretty quickly, especially as my view has to weigh in on teen suicide and similar delicate matters. While I don’t want to offend anyone, I do think it’s an important to address and discuss.

In my previous post, I brought up a potential condition as having a physical component necessary for AE/PE, or at least sufficient age for informed consent. I’m not convinced this is a necessary condition.

I might (or rather, ONE might) argue that suicide of any kind is permissible, regardless of age or suffering threshold, because there’s no reason to interfere in the autonomy of individuals who may wish to take their life. I find this potentially convincing provided it does the necessary work.

I don’t mean to say that we ought to be OKAY with people killing themselves, certainly we should still take measures to raise awareness about teen suicide and the necessary ways to get and offer help to teens in need, but do we really have any right to interfere with someone who wishes to take their own life? Or are our intuitions, which tell us that we ought to stop people from killing themselves, only based in selfish concerns about the loss of a peer/friend/family member/colleague/whatever?

If so, should we really be basing an ethical principle fundamentally concerned with interfering in the bodily autonomy of others (granted this is sts permissible) on grounds related to OUR best interests? This seems quintessentially conflicted to me. Any view that wishes to take issue with a permissive view of suicide HAS to deal only with the best interest of the subject, not those around them (provided no dependents).

About forthesakeofdebate

I enjoy intellectual discussion and learning, metal music, martial arts, and blades. Pretty soon I'll be your favorite misanthrope.

2 responses to “Preventing Teen Suicide? An Unethical Intervention in Autonomy?

  1. Nate A.M.

    This is how I understand it. For most cases of direct prevention, there are two ways of examining the issue: analytic and pragmatic.

    Analytically, I think the framework is there, but there is a fundamental confusion of what’s being asked. Instead of one question – “should we try to prevent suicide” – we have several. I think the most pragmatic course is to address the following questions in order. Let us assume that we already know: what form ethical propositions take.

    1) What is the nature of agency.
    2) What is the ethical significance of agency.
    3) When is killing wrong.
    4) Is it permissible to kill oneself given what has so far been discovered.
    5) What is the ethical significance of inflicting grief.
    6) In what ways can agencies conflict?

    Given answers to those questions, any particular instance that we might call “preventing suicide” may be properly understood and then analyzed. However, there are additional difficulties which are definitional and must also be disambiguated. Killing and suicide as I understand them have agency at the heart of their definitions, and therefore neither term may be understood without first understanding 1 or 2. This may cause difficulties in discerning their answers.

    The pragmatic method is the more accessible one. That is, assume the consequences of not preventing any given suicide and look and see what that entails. This will not give us the ethical answer, but it will give us answers which are suitable to the society in which we live. Since I do NOT have answers for 1-6, this pragmatic method forms the basis for my current belief, which is that even if suicide is ethically permissible, I will never refrain from directly preventing a suicide unless it requires causing another death because not acting to do so has unpalatable upshots. We may also better generalize about the sociological implications using this method.

  2. Nate A.M.

    …uhh, pretend all those editing mistakes don’t exist ^^;

    I should say something more about the last part of that. Of course it may be a mistake to talk about the agency of prevention at all, because it may turn out due to the answers of 1-2 that your own prior argument holds true. I would come back and argue that the point of the pragmatic method is actively ignoring things like 1-2 so we can deal directly with the practical effects.

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