Ask Jennifer Michael Hecht Anything: Do We Have A Right To Die?

Andrew Sullivan —  Mar 28 2014 @ 3:39pm

The author of Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It addresses the question:

A reader responds to our first video from JMH:

Thanks for your brief video of Hecht talking about suicide contagion. Many years ago I went through a period of serious depression and came quite close to killing myself. With the help of several people (and one friend in particular) I pulled through, and now I lead a regular life with episodes of normal misery but nothing like what I once experienced.

When I was at my lowest ebb, I definitely knew that if I ended my life I would hurt others around me – my family, my friends. But in the two or so years I struggled with those feelings, I can tell you it never once occurred to me that killing myself might lead someone else to end their life. Such a thought would have been abhorrent to me, and I couldn’t help wondering after I wanted Hecht’s video whether suicide prevention counsellors make that point to those at risk of harming themselves. I think if they did, some of those people would step back from the brink. It’s one thing to hurt yourself and rationalize that your pain is greater than the pain you’ll cause others through your death; it’s quite another to think you might be compelling some of those who knew you to step into that abyss themselves.

Many thanks for that video. I will now read her book.