On the Possibility of Rational Suicide. Can Competent, Rational Agents Commit Suicide?
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Current suicide policies assume that the suicidal agent is irrational and in need of treatment. Because of the assumed irrationality of suicide, suicide policies focus on suicide prevention. In this paper, I question the assumed irrationality of suicide and incompetence of suicidal agents. This paper will argue that rational suicide by competent agents is possible, and therefore current suicide policy overlooks death deciders; a group of rational, competent suicidal agents. I begin by offering a conception of rationality and rational suicide in chapter one. To come to a definition of rationality I discuss the positions of Richard Brandt, Michael Cholbi and Govert den Hartogh. The resulting definition of rationality involves autonomously chosen ends, proper planning and discussion with experience professionals. In chapter two, I discuss competence, based on a list provided by the KNMG (the Dutch physician association). This list will be critically reflected on with Gerald Dworkin’s theory on autonomy. The resulting definition of competence involves the ability to explain yourself to others, understand what is going on and awareness of the external influences on your deliberation process. This second chapter ends with a comparison of rationality and competence and the conclusion that the suicidal rational agent and the competent agent can be one and the same. There is one important difference between the two which has to do with awareness of external influences appears to be a difference. This group will be referred to as death deciders. Having delineated death deciders, I will turn to a discussion of suicide policies in chapter three. The irrational and/or incompetent people are of a different category than death deciders, they will not benefit from treatment and therefore need a different approach. Whereas it is necessary to protect irrational and incompetent suicidal people from harm, physically limiting the freedom of death deciders is potentially unjust. I suggest a two-phase policy approach for suicide policy. In the first phase, suicide prevention polices should apply to every suicidal agent. The second phase entails holds treatment for the irrational or incompetent people and -to be investigated- suicide managing policies for death deciders.