Fwd: Suicide (was PCA statement on end of life decisions)

From: Iain Strachan <igd.strachan@gmail.com>
Date: Mon Apr 04 2005 - 14:39:45 EDT

Oops, sent this one just to Jack and was intended for the whole list :-(

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Iain Strachan <igd.strachan@gmail.com>
Date: Apr 4, 2005 7:37 PM
Subject: Suicide (was PCA statement on end of life decisions)
To: jack syme <drsyme@cablespeed.com>

I wonder if I might solicit list members' views on the following (hope it's
not considered to be too far off-topic). I found the following clause in the
web-link that Jack posted ...

 9. Euthanasia, or "mercy-killing" of a patient by a physician or by anyone
else, including the patient himself (suicide) is murder. To withhold or to
withdraw medical treatment, as is being discussed here, does not constitute
euthanasia and should not be placed into the same category with it.

I deliberately searched for "suicide" in this article on "end of life
decisions", as it's a subject of interest to me because of my involvement
with the Samaritans movement. I had been a volunteer from 1982 to 1989, and
decided to rejoin the movement in 2003 following the death by suicide of an
email acquaintance that I knew from another email list I was on. (In the
past Samaritans were advised to be secretive about the fact that they were
involved, but nowadays, they are encouraged to be more open about it).

The following is from the "Mission Vision and Values" statements from the
Samaritans website (www.samaritans.org.uk <http://www.samaritans.org.uk>):

Samaritans' vision

Samaritans' vision is for a society in which:

   - Fewer people die by suicide
   - People are able to explore their feelings
   - People are able to acknowledge and respect the feelings of others

Samaritans' values

Samaritans' values are based on these beliefs:

   - The importance of having the opportunity to explore difficult
   - That being listened to, in confidence and accepted without
   prejudice, can alleviate despair and suicidal feelings
   - That everyone has the right to make fundamental decisions about
   their own life, including the decision to die by suicide


So while the organization wants to see less people die by suicide, they also
(indicated by the last bullet point), support fully the right to end your
own life by suicide, clearly NOT condemning it as a form of murder, as the
clause in the PCA statement indicates.

This point came up in my selection interview. I was asked "Do you think
people have a right to commit suicide?". (They had already ascertained I was
a Christian, and wanted to be certain I wasn't going to start preaching at
callers about the wrongness of suicide). I was pretty flummoxed by the
question, and kind of got out of it by saying that I didn't think *I* had a
right to commit suicide, because of my beliefs, but equally I didn't have
the right to force my opinions down other peoples' throats who might not be
of the same persuasion.

Then I had an interesting email discussion with a friend from my
Shostakovich email list, who was a Buddhist. We were discussing the suicide
of the person I mentioned above, whose death prompted my return to
Samaritans. My Buddhist friend was of the opinion that suicide was a very
bad thing to do, and that "all major religions agree" that suicide is an
instant ticket to hell (apparently it is regarded as such in Buddhism -
somthing to do with Karma). I disputed this, and said actually having
thought about it, that in Christianity, although suicide is clearly a sin,
we all die with unconfessed sin, but the key was that if we believe in Jesus
Christ (John 3:16) we shall not perish but have everlasting life. I'm afraid
he wasn't convinced!

I've often spoken to Catholic callers, who, on asked about suicide will say
that their religion forbids it, but they'd love to just go to sleep and not
wake up. It is well-known that the Catholic church regards suicide as a
mortal sin, but even they apparently now say that it is not a mortal sin in
the case of the patient being mentally ill.

There was a recent horrific death by suicide in the UK that made the
national newspapers, where a man drove his car on a level crossing and
waited for the train. The train was derailed and many people were killed.
There was much from the press condemning the man and saying how selfish it
was. Then a national spokesperson for the Samaritans pointed out in the
press that people who are suicidal develop a kind of "tunnel vision" where
they are simply incapable of thinking about anything but themselves, and
their desire to end their lives. Maybe this falls into the category of
"mentally ill"?

I wonder what list-members views are on this?

Parting thought .. If a caller said to me (Matt 26:38) "My soul is
overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death", I would ask them if they
were suicidal - on the face of it, it sounds very like someone in such
despair that all they want to do is die.

Guess the science/faith link is tenuous here ... possibly about mental
states, which has overlap with the Schiavo discussion.


On Apr 4, 2005 12:10 PM, jack syme <drsyme@cablespeed.com> wrote:
> http://www.pcanet.org/history/pca/2-378.html
> Morning all. I had been looking for this and finally found it.
> My views are very much the same as this statement for the most part. The
> language used is old, and the statement itself probably needs to be
> upgraded. But everything I have been saying is consistent with the PCA
> statement.

There are 3 types of people in the world.
Those who can count and those who can't.
There are 3 types of people in the world.
Those who can count and those who can't.
Received on Mon Apr 4 14:40:03 2005

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