Suicide now a huge challenge crying out for national debate
SEE ALSO :How heart break drove girl to suicideSuicide is a most extreme measure. It is either an act of incredible courage and determination, or an act of unfathomable despair. When I think about suicide bombers inspired by politics or religion, I am left speechless. Think of the 70-something grandmother who was a suicide bomber. The conviction for her cause must have been incredible. Or the Indian practice of sati where a widow immolates herself on her husband’s funeral pyre. Sati treats the wife as part of the husband that cannot continue living since he is dead. Nothing could be more unacceptable. India has banned the practice because its logic is completely untenable. Some countries have legalised euthanasia or assisted suicide where a person can seek the assistance of a family member or a physician. Death in such cases can be occasioned by ingesting poison. In cases where it is legal, euthanasia is only permissible where the victim seeks to end the torment of enormous suffering. Imagine suffering caused by an incurable cancer or some godforsaken ailment. Rather than allow the person to endure demonic suffering, some societies deem it morally justifiable to permit assisted suicide. However, the matter remains contentious because of opposition from religious groups. Then there’s murder-suicide where a person kills one or more persons and immediately takes his own life. This is different from a suicide pact where two or more people conspire to simultaneously end their own lives. A murder-suicide can be committed to escape punishment, out of guilt, to facilitate a killing as in suicide attacks, or to inflict punishment on self. A person who commits suicide may kill their loved ones first, such as children, to prevent them from being orphaned.
SEE ALSO :Girl, 13, was calm before suicideOr a person may commit murder-suicide to take revenge on people he considers horrible, or to escape a world he thinks irredeemable because of brainwashing in a cult. Suicide tells us that human psychology is complex — that we don’t understand many dark corners of the human mind. Those of us who’ve been affected by suicide look for answers, but in vain. There is temptation to blame the person who commits suicide — the departed — as selfish. Didn’t they care about those left behind? This is more so where no note is left behind to explain the suicide. I concluded after wrestling with these questions that it serves no purpose to blame the departed. We will all leave this earth someday. Some choose to leave it on their own terms. We must celebrate their lives and go on for the sake of those who are left behind. -The writer is SUNY Distinguished Professor at SUNY Buffalo Law School and Chair of the Kenya Human Rights Commission.
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