The Corner

Another Suicide-Prevention Article Omitting Assisted Suicide

I have repeatedly pointed out that the suicide-prevention community almost always pretends that assisted suicide has no connection to their cause.

But it does. Pretending that assisted suicide isn’t suicide — a favored political tactic of “death with dignity” supporters — doesn’t change the nature of the act.

Suicide, is suicide, is suicide.

An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association argues for more forceful engagement in the cause of suicide prevention. But once again, the assisted suicide issue goes unmentioned.

First, the USA’s suicide problem is worsening. From “Getting Serious About Reducing Suicide”:

Despite substantial public investments in research on the etiology of mental illnesses over the last several decades, rates of onset and recovery have not improved, and the suicide rate has been steadily increasing in the United States.

I am convinced that suicide promotion engaged in by assisted-suicide/euthanasia activists is part — not all, but part — of the cause of this. And I am always stunned when researchers don’t issue clarion calls for an intense look at whether and/or how assisted-suicide advocacy impacts suicide decisions overall.

I only know of one such study, and it showed a correlation: increased suicide in states in which assisted suicide was legalized.

As usual, the JAMA authors focus on guns:

For suicide in the United States, the most important modifiable risk factor is access to firearms. Guns were used in 51% of completed suicides in 2013. . . . 

The next most lethal means of suicide are suffocation/hanging (69% fatal) and falls (31%), but these methods together account for fewer than half the number of suicides that guns claim each year.

Strong evidence supports the scientific consensus that access to firearms in the home is associated with a significantly increased suicide risk and that reducing gun access for people at risk will reduce suicide.

I recall the Michael Freeland case in Oregon. Freeland had been prescribed a lethal prescription because he had cancer (he lived for 2 years after the initial prescription). A year later, he became psychotic. The authorities and psychiatrist took his guns, but left his lethal prescription in the house for this mentally ill man to take if he wanted. From my piece in the Weekly Standard on the case:

Freeland was hospitalized for a week and then discharged on January 30. The discharging psychiatrist noted with approval that the guns had been removed, “which resolves the major safety issue,” but wrote that Freeland’s lethal prescription remained “safely at home.”

Freeland was permitted to keep the overdose even though the psychiatrist reported he would “remain vulnerable to periods of delirium.” In-home care was considered likely to assist with this problem, but a January 24 chart notation noted that Freeland “does have his life-ending medications that he states he may or may not use, so that [in-home care] may or may not be a moot point.”

But, we are told constantly, there are “no abuses” in Oregon. Please.

It strikes me that pushing suicide prevention for some people, and legalizing suicide facilitation for others, sends a hopelessly mixed message. It is akin to saying, “Don’t smoke, but if you do, use a filtered cigarette.”

And thus does the suicide-prevention message become so watered down that it is rendered substantially ineffective.

Bottom line: Assisted suicide is suicide by any definition that isn’t political spin.And yet suicide-prevention efforts usually pretend this issue doesn’t exist — implicitly sending the message that only some suicides are worth preventing.

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