Principles

Diana’s guiding principles on suicide, 3/25/16, as shared by Meredith Morgan from one of their written conversations:

1) First principle is autonomy. It is my belief that people should be allowed to choose for themselves anything that doesn’t abridge the human rights of another person.

2) Second principle is consent. Suicide should not involve others who haven’t consented to be involved, like stepping in front of a truck. However, first responders have consented based on the nature of their jobs, ie police, EMT, etc. If a suicidal friend reaches out to you to talk about suicide, you have a right not to consent to engaging them in that conversation. If you consent to discuss, then you become a party to their suicide, and potentially liable for their outcome if you don’t report. If you accept that risk, then it’s your choice how to be involved, whether as a supportive ear, a prevention resource, an assistant to suicide, or whatever.

3) Third principle is the circle of life. All things that live must die. That is a universal truth. Death cannot be prevented, only postponed. Death has a cultural meaning that I regard as an unhealthy view of a normal biological process. Demystify death, and rationale behind suicide prevention at all costs just falls apart.

4) My fourth principle is compassion. This is a less universal thing. We are under no obligation to be compassionate. However, it’s how I choose to live. Compassion teaches me that suffering is unnecessary, though not always avoidable. When suffering is avoidable, a person practicing compassion may choose to help alleviate another’s suffering and be morally justified in doing so. In the case of a friend who comes to you to talk about their suicidality, compassion can take many forms. Any of those forms that honor the other person’s autonomy and consent are good by definition. Whether you talk them through a tough time, or help them construct a suicide device, you’ve shown compassion.

5) My fifth principle is systems of harm. Our mental & medical health services are a crock of shit, and our law enforcement is an occupying army. Add to that other systems of oppression that many people are burdened by, and it’s clear that involving these institutions will often result in harm to the person you care about – including mental torment, loss of rights, abuse within the institutions, violence, and sometimes death by the hands of others who did not have consent to take a life. I personally would not want a concerned friend calling 911 if I was talking about my suicidality. I refuse to discuss it with mandated reporters like therapists and doctors unless I am very certain they will honor my wishes over protecting their licenses. If hypothetically I wanted to be comforted as I planned my suicide, I would only reach out to a close friend who I could trust to honor me, and not usurp my right to self-determination in my end-of-life choices. I have been that friend to many people, and will continue to be that friend. Being an outspoken supporter of choice on suicide has opened me up to many folks who needed a safe ear to talk things through, and I think I’ve been a help to all of them. I would also help them plan a means of suicide that would be successful if that’s what they wanted. I give no fucks about what the law says. Bottom line for me is that I have a right to determine the course of my life, and that includes my end-of-life. At any moment, and for any reason, I feel that no law or system should get in my way and make my death harder to achieve, less likely to work, or rob me of my dignity. We must honor the autonomy and dignity of people who have had all they want of this life. Forcing someone to live against their will is the ultimate violation of humans rights, and much worse than murder, because it produces continuation of suffering. And if someone is thinking about suicide as an option, we shouldn’t increase their suffering by stigmatizing their thoughts. We can offer support, comfort, and love without non-consensual intervention. Also, when it comes time to watch a friend take their life, we need to check ourselves and our desire to intervene – and handle our survivor and community self-care in the aftermath.

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