Monday, January 19, 2009

Per 'This Conversation'

First this disclaimer, aimed at those in the mental health establishment who think they know better than me what to do with MY life:

I, James Crawford, have not experienced suicidal ideation in several years, nor have I EVER attempted suicide either by active or passive means (Christ, look what we've come to!).

Now to the post proper:

I just wandered downstairs a few minutes ago, and on my way outside to have a smoke (yes, I know...coffin nails), I happened to catch a few minutes of the new episode of 'House' (apologies to fans of the show, but I find the protagonist a trifle too glib). It seems the patient of the week made a suicide attempt, and there followed a conversation between two of the doctors about the 'morality' of the attempt. Doctor #1 seemed somewhat sympathetic, while doctor #2 saw fit to chastise the man for what he perceived to be an act of selfishness.

"The guy had no right! What about his wife and kids?" (paraphrase)

Now, here's my question- what's the difference between this attitude, and the following situational statement?

"We're holding you hostage until you pay up; however, we'll try to make your stay as comfortable as we can."


Sister Y said...

If instead of "wife and kids" you'd said "parents and siblings," I'd say, no difference.

But the dude had a choice in having children and getting married. You could say he put himself in a moral hostage situation. Whereas with the genuine hostage, there's no such choice.

I think it's wrong to kill yourself if you've voluntarily had children, and perhaps if you're married. (I still don't think that justifies forcible intervention with even a married suicide with children, though.)

Anonymous said...

Hi, Curator.

I'll acknowledge your distinction as far as qualitative differences are concerned. I certainly feel a responsibility towards my children which I would in no way expect to be reciprocated.

However, in my example Dr. #2 plays the part of a third-party, coercive agent. Or in other words, he IS the 'forcible intervention' you speak of.

TGGP said...

What are "passive means" of attempting suicide.

Anonymous said...


Here's a definition that comes close to what I had in mind:

PASSIVE SUICIDE ATTEMPT - Allowing oneself to be in a potentially fatal situation and not caring if death occurs.

Here's some more reading, more detailed, and perhaps encompassing a broader range:

TGGP said...

I had a friend who overdosed on antidepressants. I thought he was the happiest person I knew and hadn't even known he was on them. In the hospital he told me it wasn't so much that he was trying to kill himself as that he didn't care what would happen.

Chip said...

Did anyone else see the entire episode? It may be significant to note that the character was driven to attempt suicide by an underlying and undiagnosed medical condition that caused him to live in severe pain. When he was given the standard questionaire, it was made clear that he was not depressed; he just wanted the suffering to end, in part because he felt that the constant pain diminished his ability to be a good husband and father. Also, regaring Curator's conditional objection, there is a point in the story when the man's wife and son come to side with him, convincing House to stop the differential so that he can be released with the tacit understanding that, once home, he will finish the job. That's not the end of the story, of course, but I thought it added something to the ethical melodrama.

I'm a huge fan of the show, BTW. My wife is always pointing out the obscure Sherlock Holmes allusions.

compoverde said...

If a person didn't want to be born, and he is forced to do himself harm in order to get out of life, was it moral for a parent to put a being in that situation, if it knows that could be a possibility? the only option for the child is to accept life or do itself the ultimate harm...would you call that moral to put that undo decision on the offspring?

Anonymous said...

You know, I have to say... depression is usually caused or at least worsened by the life you live and what's around you. If you had a kid by accident, or if your girl got pregnant on purpose, you're fucked for life. The only way out is death. You could leave... technically, but then you have to live with that guilt, and your kid will know that you left him/her. If you die, there is no lingering guilt or pain, your child only knows that you're dead, and hopefully her mom doesn't say it's because you couldn't bear to live with the mistake you made by putting your dick in her moms chasm of financial ruin and mental anguish. It's horrible, I know, but when there's no way out, what can you do?

Anonymous said...


You know, my default position on depression these days is that it's simply the lack of an effective coping strategy. I leave this open to interpretation, and perhaps further discussion.

Christoph Dollis said...

Why should one cope with a terrible situation? Why not just refuse to cope with it, and leave it?