Sunday, April 29, 2012


It seems to me that among the assumed rights that any civilized country might hold as being worthy of assumption is the right to commit suicide. Wikipedia cites numbers of countries in which suicide is against the law in one way or another. Most such laws find their basis in religious doctrine, but I think individuals find it repugnant or incomprehensible in ways that deny the individual his (so to speak) God-given right. As regards the U.S.:
Historically, various states listed the act of suicide as a felony, but these policies were sparsely enforced. In the late 1960s, eighteen U.S. states lacked laws against suicide. By the late 1980s, thirty of the fifty states had no laws against suicide or suicide attempts but every state had laws declaring it to be felony to aid, advise or encourage another person to commit suicide. By the early 1990s only two states still listed suicide as a crime, and these have since removed that classification.
There are still a variety of adjunct laws that are connected with the act of suicide -- as for example the disposition of property or the act of assisting a suicide.

What brought this to mind was that today I saw Toby walking to his apartment across the street. Toby is a man in his 40's who has had his brushes with the law in the past. Toby drinks. Two or three days ago, two cop cars and an ambulance pulled up outside Toby's dwelling place. One of the cops asked me without explanation if I had seen Toby. I said no, but that I had heard him earlier in the day, cussing out a nearby barking dog. The situation remained unclear until today when I again saw Toby and subsequently heard him talking to one of his next-door neighbors. "They thought I was going to hurt myself," I heard him say.

The context of the remark was entirely missing, but it did make me wonder who had ratted him out in the first place and on what basis. It also made me think that a man should be allowed to commit suicide in peace and quiet if that's what he wants. Of course, if peace and quiet was what he actually wanted, it seems to me that even a drinker could find the time and place in which to act uninterrupted.

Yes, perhaps a planned suicide is a "mistake." But we've all made mistakes. Yes, perhaps a planned suicide is really a "plea for help." Perhaps it is "cowardice." Perhaps it is "irresponsible." But whatever the perhaps's, still I think that individuals should be granted their 'God-given' rights in the minds of others.

A little peace and quiet is a nice thing to grant to others.

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