Can Suicide in the Elderly Be Rational?

In Robert E. McCue & Meera Balasubramaniam (eds.), Rational Suicide in the Elderly Clinical, Ethical, and Sociocultural Aspects. Springer. pp. 1-21 (2017)
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In this chapter, we consider, and reject, the claim that all elderly patients’ desires for suicide are irrational. The same reasons that have led to a growing acceptance for the rationality of suicide in terminal cases should lead us to view other desires for suicide as possibly rational. In both cases, desires for suicide can and do materialize in the absence of mental illness. Furthermore, we claim that desires for suicide can remain rational even in the face of some mental illnesses so long as four criteria are met: individuals must demonstrate rationality, have realistic information and judgments about their life-world, be in a state of mind (e.g., their emotions and will) that is not be severely compromised by mental illness, and make choices that are congruent with their fundamental values and critical interests. We conclude that some rational suicides can be ethically justifiable.



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Lawrence Nelson
Santa Clara University
Erick José Ramirez
Santa Clara University

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