Raquel: At what age is suicide okay? I don’t know. But you need to be an adult, maybe even an old adult. And you need to be already dying — the doctors have to have done as much as they can, and you have to have lived a life that you are proud of, then maybe suicide is okay.
Shannon: But that is too strict if that is the only condition under which suicide is allowed. Don’t you think living wills should also be honored? If we are giving the right to die to terminally sick older people, we should also give it to those who are healthy, but are anticipating the worst.
Raquel: No. Again, only if you are already going to die, then, perhaps you can morally commit suicide. Actually, I’m not really sure even in this case.
Shannon: But does it make sense that you have the right to choose death if you’re incapacitated and can’t implement your decision, but you don’t have that right if you’re even remotely healthy – talk about a catch-22!
Raquel: No, you’re right about that. I think that imminent painful death in old age is the only reason death can be a choice, but, yes, you have to be able to implement your decision. Still, I have my doubts.
Shannon: Then you’re saying death isn’t an allowable choice unless it is painful and immediately around the corner. That makes it not a choice at all, just a more quickly reached destination.
Raquel: That’s right. Taking it a step further, I’m worried about who gets to make the decision. A teenager whose girlfriend or boyfriend has broken up with him might think she or he’s facing imminent painful death and then commit suicide. That is wrong. Someone with professional expertise has be involved. Perhaps suicides should only be allowed in hospitals.
Shannon: I thought you wanted smaller government involvement in our lives. Now you’re arguing for government involvement in our most private and personal decisions.
Raquel: And I thought you wanted larger government involvement in our lives — to protect us. Now you are arguing for a hands-off approach to those about to make an irrevocable uninformed decision.
Shannon: Uninformed only according to you Christian people. But, yeah, I see your point: Our views are not only mutually but seem to be internally contradictory.
At this moment, Sophia shows up, carrying a cup of coffee.
Sophia: Hi, you two. What are you talking about?
Shannon: My father has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. We are discussing whether suicide is a good option for him or not. I say suicide is a good option; Raquel thinks it is an immoral option.
Sophia: Really. Sounds like an important conversation. But are you two whispering?
Raquel: Whispering? No, why would we whisper?
Sophia: Don’t you watch the news? Two guys in Wyoming were in a bar discussing breaking up the oil companies and were later found murdered. The local police suspect that their murder might have something to do with their having that conversation.
Raquel: I don’t think anyone is going to murder us for discussing suicide.
Sophia: Don’t be too sure. These are “interesting” times. And a conversation involving the pluses of suicide might be forbidden.
Shannon: Sophia, please join us. I think we’re safe here. We would certainly value your insight.
Sophia: I’m honored. Shannon, I missed your side of the conversation about suicide. What do you think?
Shannon: I think suicide is my right. I find Raquel’s view that suicide is usually wrong and therefore not allowed an infringement on my rights. Raquel, suicide’s a freedom we should have just by virtue of being the conscious animals we are. We should all have the freedom to die, just like the other freedoms we enjoy. In fact, in some sense, suicide is our first freedom. This is because the individual is sacred.
Sophia: You sound like the famous philosopher Ayn Rand, who said her philosophy was “. . . the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.”
Shannon: That evokes a nice sentiment, but I don’t agree with it. I would put it this way: All humans should strive to be heroic, their flourishing is the central purpose of their lives, but no one who is sane and rational can be happy when others around him are suffering, so the flourishing of all of life, our own included, is our noblest activity, and there are no absolutes.
Sophia: Very nice, Shannon.
Raquel: I see now why you are so pro-suicide. There’s nothing in that statement about respecting the dictates of God.
Shannon: You don’t respect the dictates of God, Raquel. If I give you a gun will you go kill a homosexual for Him, just as He commanded in Leviticus 18:22, and 20:13? I don’t think so. Appeals to God and what God wants are so small-minded. The Bible contains some very nasty stuff which I find both blatantly immoral and personally offensive.
Sophia: I think we had better stop for the day. Tempers are beginning to rise. Let’s adjourn and agree to return to this forbidden conversation when we meet again. Say tomorrow, at this location at this same time.
Shannon: Tomorrow, then.
I KNOW these are some very touchy subjects and while I can’t say that I agreed with the turn of the conversations I have to say that I needed to read this book. This book brought me out of the small-town mindset that I have an challenged how I view and understand others and their feelings. It didn’t change my feelings or views but it was extremely enlightening.
Overall, this book confirmed my love for this country. I love living in the United States of America and although I do not believe that it’s perfect, I do believe that God watches over us and will continue to do so as long as we include Him in our decision-making.
Eric Dietrich, Ph.D., is professor of philosophy at Binghamton University. Before studying philosophy, he was a concert pianist and mountain climber. He is the author of numerous papers, most recently focusing on how differently people view moral situations. He’s also worked in paraconsistent logic and true contradictions, metaphysics, and artificial intelligence. He co-authored Sisyphus’s Boulder: Consciousness and the Limits of the Knowable, a book on consciousness’s resistance to scientific explanation. And he is the editor of the Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Artificial Intelligence.
Tara Fox Hall’s writing credits include nonfiction, horror, suspense, fantasy, erotica, and contemporary and historical paranormal romance. She is the author of the paranormal fantasy Lash series and the vampire romantic suspense Promise Me series. Tara divides her free time unequally between writing novels and short stories, chainsawing firewood, caring for stray animals, sewing cat and dog beds for donation to animal shelters, and target practice.