Euthanasia, and Assisted Suicide: What Would Hippocrates Do?
Suicide, the killing of oneself, wastes countless lives and robs society of many gifted individuals. In addition to the average person beset with depression over a broken relationship, financial troubles, or the loss of a job, extremely creative people have also taken their own lives while in the throes of depression. Both Vincent van Gogh, the post-impressionist painter, and author Ernest Hemingway died by gunshot wounds; British novelist Virginia Woolf filled her pockets with stones and walked into a river near her home; and Kurt Cobain, lead singer of Nirvana, killed himself with a shotgun. There about one million suicides occur every year in addition to 20 million suicide attempts throughout the world. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) sees suicide as a major preventable health problem in America and for good reason. More than 32,000 successful suicides are registered every year in the United States with many of the victims being healthy, young adults. Teen suicide has also become an escalating tragedy and occasional pre-teen suicides are reported. There has been religious, ethical, and social opposition to suicide for millennia. It has been characterized as an affront to a life-giving God and a usurpation of the divine power over life and death. It has been widely perceived as the ultimate selfish act. In some locales, suicide has been considered a crime; botched attempts have led to the confiscation of the property of survivors in some cases and imprisonment or fines in others. It does not carry the death penalty.