(Almost) Everyone Should Be Allowed to Kill Themselves

Question: Who should be allowed to commit suicide?

Jacob Appel: The short answer, I would say, is anyone.  But the real answer I think is, almost anyone.  I am very comfortable with the system that for a very acute period of time protects from their own worst instincts.  But I do mean for a very acute period of time.  I think the paradigmatic example of someone you might want to prevent from committing suicide is the teenager who breaks up with a boyfriend or girlfriend and tries to overdose on Tylenol.  And to tell them, for a few days, we’re going to hospitalize you against your will doesn’t seem that reasonable to me. 

In contrast, someone who has suffered from chronic depression throughout their life with multiple suicide attempts clearly, modern medicine and modern psychiatry has been unable to help this person.  While I wouldn’t necessarily choose to end my life under those circumstances, I would respect someone else’s right to do so.  So the real standard I would use is, does this person on the one hand have the capacity to make this decision.  Are they thinking clearly, are they thinking rationally?  And secondly, can they demonstrate this capacity over a prolonged period of several days rather than in an instant? And I think the vast majority of people who wish to commit suicide wouldn’t meet most of those criteria.

A person should have the right to end their own life, so long as they can prove that they are thinking rationally over a prolonged period of several days.

A brief history of human dignity

What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.

Credit: Benjavisa Ruangvaree / AdobeStock
Sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies
  • Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
  • That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
  • We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
Keep reading Show less

​'The time is now' for cryptocurrencies, PayPal CEO says

Is Bitcoin akin to 'digital gold'?

Technology & Innovation
  • In October, PayPal announced that it would begin allowing users to buy, sell, and hold cryptocurrencies.
  • Other major fintech companies—Square, Fidelity, SoFi—have also recently begun investing heavily in cryptocurrencies.
  • While prices are volatile, many investors believe cryptocurrencies are a relatively safe bet because blockchain technology will prove itself over the long term.
Keep reading Show less

"Clean meat" approved for sale in Singapore

Singapore has approved the sale of a lab-grown meat product in an effort to secure its food supplies against disease and climate change.

Credit: Adobe Stock / Big Think
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Singapore has become the first country to approve the sale of a lab-grown meat product.
  • Eat Just, the company behind the product, will have a small-scale commercial launch of its chicken bites.
  • So-called "clean meats" may reduce our reliance on livestock farming, which kills billions of animals worldwide every year.
  • Keep reading Show less

    Scientists find the "magic number" that links forces of the universe

    Researchers dramatically improve the accuracy of a number that connects fundamental forces.

    Credit: Adobe Stock / Big Think
    Surprising Science
    • A team of physicists carried out experiments to determine the precise value of the fine-structure constant.
    • This pure number describes the strength of the electromagnetic forces between elementary particles.
    • The scientists improved the accuracy of this measurement by 2.5 times.
    Keep reading Show less

    Study suggests most "dark web" users are not engaging in illicit activities

    A new study finds that some people just want privacy.

    Photo by Soumil Kumar from Pexels
    Technology & Innovation
    • Despite its reputation as a tool for criminals, only a small percentage of Tor users were actually going to the dark web.
    • The rate was higher in free countries and lower in countries with censored internet access.
    • The findings are controversial, and may be limited by their methodology to be general assumptions.
    Keep reading Show less
    Quantcast