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

From: Michael Roberts <>
Date: Mon Apr 04 2005 - 16:09:26 EDT

The two worst funerals to take are suicides and children. What do you say to a family whose 28 yr son has just hanged himself, without any indications of problems? I also conducted the funeral of a young soldier found with a bullet in his head at Deepcut Barracks - where 6 recruits have been found dead with bullets in their head in the last 10 years. These funerals still haunt me and are the only ones which do. They were totally devoid of joy, and far more numbing than that of a child. The pain is far worse than either cancer or a car crash. The worst was a friend who drank paraquat on the anniversary of her father's suicide. Could one say that suicide not only kills oneself but one's family as well. It causes guilt on those left far more than any other death.I see the pain whenever I meet the suicide's mother.
I think I can "understand" suicide but it cannot be seen as right. It raises a few questions about the ethics of many groups like the Samaritans. But how can one support the death penalty but not abortion and euthanasia?

On euthansia is there a difference between active killing and passive killing e.g. giving more morphine to reduce pain knowing that it will shorten what time is left, or withdrawing life support systems? One morning at 7 o'clock a parishoner rang up and asked what to do about her 95 yr old mother in hospital. The doctors had given her a choice as she could not swallow; either let her die in a few days or operate and prolong her life (delay her death) for a few weeks. I had to find a way of assuring her that whatever she told the doctors she was morally right and a loving daughter.

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Iain Strachan
  Sent: Monday, April 04, 2005 7:39 PM
  Subject: Fwd: Suicide (was PCA statement on end of life decisions)

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

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

  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 (

  Samaritans' vision

  Samaritans' vision is for a society in which:

    a.. Fewer people die by suicide
    b.. People are able to explore their feelings
    c.. People are able to acknowledge and respect the feelings of others
  Samaritans' values

  Samaritans' values are based on these beliefs:

    a.. The importance of having the opportunity to explore difficult feelings
    b.. That being listened to, in confidence and accepted without prejudice, can alleviate despair and suicidal feelings
    c.. 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 <> wrote:

    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

  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 16:12:39 2005

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