The other day I was talking to someone, and a friend of hers came up in conversation.
He’d killed himself, and he let everyone know why, and it was in its way a very good reason — or at least the sort of reason that came as a surprise to no one.
Someone else said he didn’t have the courage to do that himself. There’s nothing courageous about killing yourself to deal with a problem, but it’s not weak or cowardly, either. The decision to end all future decisions can, occasionally, be the product of a rational thought process.
More often, though, it’s the result of depression, the irrational chemical composition of the brain. Suicide comes at a moment of weakness, a bad night, hitting bottom.
I may be wrong, but I think if every person in America had, I don’t know, a magic button in his home that let him commit suicide cleanly, painlessly and instantly, the rate of suicide would shoot up. Nothing else would have to change, but give people the ability to easily wink themselves away from this universe based on one action, and suddenly, we’d have a lot more dead people.
And, really, that’s the important thing. You can hang yourself or jump off a building or take a lot of pills and you’ll probably die, but you’ll almost certainly regret it after you’ve committed to the choice. That’s part of the reason guns are responsible for about half the completed suicides in the United States. They’re available, relatively cheap and all the conviction you need has to last a half-second for a trigger pull.
There’s essentially nothing bad enough that could happen to you to make you rationally want to be dead. We see people have absolutely terrible experiences and continue to desire experiencing other things. In fact, usually, it’s the people who are enduring the worst things that have the strongest desire to endure themselves.
But change the balance of stuff bouncing around your neurons, and suddenly, you don’t want to exist anymore. And still we have the need to morally evaluate someone who does it as though they’re good or bad people for deciding something that can hardly be considered a choice at all.
Even acknowledging that suicide is a symptom of the disease of depression or just product of whim, I think what a person does to his or herself is that person’s own business. It’s tragic and sad to watch someone drink himself to cirrhosis at home, but it’s not a police matter.
So, in my ideal world, Jack Kevorkian started a company and it’s completely legal and sanitary, and you’re charged only at the end, but if you really can’t stand life anymore, every day for a month you have to go in and press a button affirming that. If you miss a day, you start over.
And if your life is so miserable that you go out of your way 30 days in a row to say you want to be dead? Well, you should be able to. It still wouldn’t be courageous or weak or any less sad, but at least everyone who did it would be making a more calculated decision than feeling sad for a moment or regularly and wanting that feeling to go away.