Human Exceptionalism

Missing the Assisted Suicide Gorilla in Room

Good for USA Today for publishing a high profile article on the USA “suicide crisis”–40,000 per year. But the story laments that people no longer much care:

Americans are far more likely to kill themselves than each other. Homicides have fallen by half since 1991, but the U.S. suicide rate keeps climbing.

The nearly 40,000 American lives lost each year make suicide the nation’s 10th-leading cause of death, and the second-leading killer for those ages 15-34. Each suicide costs society about $1 million in medical and lost-work expenses and emotionally victimizes an average of 10 other people.

Yet a national effort to stem this raging river of self-destruction — 90% of which occurs among Americans suffering mental illness — is in disarray.

I’m not surprised. Indeed, I have written about what I call “Invisible Suicide Prevention Day,” on more than one occasion. Worse, suicide prevention organizations–like the media–pretend not to (or don’t) see the 800-pound assisted suicide gorilla in the room.

I believe that assisted suicide advocacy has contributed substantially to the public’s general indifference about suicide. (I would love to see a trustworthy study on that.) Indeed, with the rare exception of a beloved celebrity like Robin Williams or a bullied teen, the issue doesn’t resonate much at all people.

Perhaps that’s also a cost of our libertarian age: It gives us an excuse not to give much of a damn anymore under the guise of supporting freedom.

Still, I don’t see how lengthy articles like reporter Gregg Zoroya’s can lament suicide and not even mention the energetic a pro-suicide campaign around ongoing cancer patient Brittan Maynard–including in USA Today. From the paper’s story about Maynard’s planned suicide:

A young woman who has fearlessly run half-marathons and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro now faces a more daunting task: taking her own life…

Get it? Suicide takes the same grit and determination as climbing an iconic African mountain.

Consider all of the stories on this massive pro-suicide media campaign–People, Time, PBS, NPR, BBC–it’s an international feeding frenzy: These stories are decidedly pro-her-suicide in tone, almost uniformly describing her plan in positive language.  Some then spout the poll-tested pro-assisted suicide nonsense that assisted suicide isn’t really suicide.

But nobody’s really fooled. In fact, showing you how utterly myopic media today are in connecting clearly related dots, assisted suicide isn’t even mentioned in USA Today’s lengthy suicide story.

In for a penny, in for a pound: You can’t fret about suicide–even though that is a righteous position–and not at least discuss whether the ubiquitous pro-suicide message pushed by the euthanasia movement is relevant to the greater problem.

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